Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

1/1/2012 - 12/31/2012

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The New Woman Tries on Red: Russia in the American Feminist Imagination, 1905-1945

FAIN: FA-55761-11

Julia L. Mickenberg
University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX 78712-0100)

The New Woman Tries on Red: Russia in the American Feminist Imagination argues that our understanding of the history of modern feminism—conceived of as a movement dedicated to fostering equal political rights as well as professional opportunities, sexual and psychological liberation, autonomy, creative expression, and social justice for women—changes if we recognize the significant impact of revolutionary Russia upon prominent female suffragists, reformers, journalists, performers, authors, activists, and other public figures in the first half of the twentieth century. Russia served as a kind of alter-ego to the U.S.; this fact, along with its tradition of women's revolutionary activism, an avowed commitment by Russian revolutionaries to equality and opportunity for women, and, in the Soviet era, the fact that the USSR stood for the very idea of internationalism, helped Russia exert a singular but heretofore unacknowledged influence on American feminism.

Media Coverage

"Stars and Tsars" (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, Brian Balogh
Publication: Backstory with the American History Guys
Date: 4/25/2014
Abstract: In the past year, the White House and the Kremlin have sparred over Syria, the Winter Olympics, and now, the crisis in Ukraine. It can be tempting to view these events through the familiar lens of the Cold War, but in this episode, the History Guys probe the deeper history of our relationship with Russia — and discover moments of comity as well as conflict. They discuss Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous prediction in the 1830s, that the United States and Russia were “two great nations” that would each come to “hold in [their] hands the destinies of half the world.” And they find long-term connections and comparisons between the countries over time. From Civil War-era analogies between freeing American slaves and freeing Russian serfs, to early 20th-century debates over women’s suffrage, Americans have often looked to Russia as a counterpart, if sometimes a cautionary one. Tags: capitalism, Cold War, Communism, Containment, Diplomatic History, political history, Russia, Soviet Union

Celebration and Fresh Inquiry (Review)
Author(s): Paul Buhle
Publication: Against the Current
Date: 1/15/2016
Abstract: Review of Lineages of the Literary Left, highlighting essay by Julia Mickenberg

Following in the Footsteps of the American Girls Who Went to Russia (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Kelly Faircloth
Publication: Jezebel
Date: 8/3/2017
Abstract: Whether you came of age at the tail end of the Cold War or just binge-watched The Americans, the familiar pop cultural stereotype about the USSR is that only a spy would bother trying to get across the border and even then, nobody would say a word to you without their eyes shifting suspiciously over your shoulder every 30 seconds. But there was a period when thousands of Americans took off for the newborn Soviet Union, many for work in the rapidly industrializing nation but others in hopes of participating in the biggest social experiment of their era. And many of them were women seeking dramatic social changes, looking for new and more equitable ways of living. In American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream, Julia L. Mickenberg traces that little-known history.
URL: http://

Associated Products

American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream (Book)
Title: American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream
Author: Julia L. Mickenberg
Abstract: American Girls in Red Russia recovers a forgotten counterpoint to the well-worn story of a “lost” generation’s escape to Paris. It explores Soviet Russia’s significance for independent, liberated, and socially conscious American “new women” in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning in the late 19th century and continuing after 1917, Russian revolutionary ideology attracted well-known suffragists, reformers, educators, journalists, artists, performers, as well as curious travelers. American women felt drawn to Russia because, like men, they wanted to witness the most dramatic set of events on the world’s stage. As women, they also hoped for a new era of female possibility, in which women would not merely be independent of men, but also equal builders of a new world, a classless society, where culture, education and social welfare counted for more than profit. US feminists still fighting for the vote took note as their Russian sisters gained not just voting rights but also abortion rights, property rights, the right to divorce, and maternity benefits, as well as state-supported childcare, dining halls and laundries. And all of this came to pass in a land that had officially outlawed prejudice against ethnic and racial minorities. This collective biography recounts the hopes, experiences, and grave disappointments of US women who campaigned for “Russian freedom”; who saved sickly, starving children from the Russian famine; who worked on rural communes in Siberia or wrote for Moscow newspapers; and who performed on Soviet stages in an effort to embody and express the revolutionary ethos. It recalls US women who survived the Great Terror and who celebrated their Soviet counterparts during the war. And, in light of the Cold War, it demands we come to terms with their legacy.
Year: 2017
Primary URL: http://
Primary URL Description: University of Chicago Press site
Secondary URL Description: Not yet available
Access Model: Cloth, e-book, and NEH Open book series
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780226256122
Copy sent to NEH?: No


Financial Times Best Books of the Year
Date: 12/1/2017
Organization: Financial Times
Abstract: This was a recognition rather than a prize per se

"Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia" (Article)
Title: "Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia"
Author: Julia Mickenberg
Abstract: That the U.S. woman suffrage amendment passed within a few years of the Russian revolution was no mere coincidence. Many know that anti-suffragists (the “antis”) used charges of socialism and “bolshevism” to discredit American suffragists. Some know that proponents of woman suffrage taunted their opponents with reminders that women in “darkest Russia” had obtained the vote before their American sisters. But historians have been so loathe to validate red baiters’ accusations that they have ignored U.S. feminists’ abiding attention to revolutionary Russia. This essay argues that the Russian revolutionary agenda—in theory if not in practice—provided a framework for reimagining the terms of women’s citizenship, and as such, was of vital interest to U.S. feminists. It also reveals historical continuities between abolitionists, feminists and “friends of Russian freedom.”
Year: 2014
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Journal of American History
Access Model: subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Journal of American History
Publisher: Oxford University Press

"To Be His Storm Over Asia: American Women, Sex, and Revolutionary Tourism in Russia, 1905-1945" (Book Section)
Title: "To Be His Storm Over Asia: American Women, Sex, and Revolutionary Tourism in Russia, 1905-1945"
Author: Julia Mickenberg
Editor: Paula Rabinowitz
Editor: Heather Bowen-Struyk
Editor: Ruth Barraclough
Abstract: Sensational reports of free love and the “nationalization of women” under the Bolsheviks revealed the way in which American anxieties were filtered through critiques of Bolshevik morality. But U.S. new women visiting the “new Russia” in the 1920s and 1930s not only praised the Bolsheviks’ “new morality”— efforts to make women full members of society and an ideal of comradely love—they also experienced sexual awakenings, physically embodying their political desire. This essay draws upon fictional and journalistic accounts of Russia’s new morality from the 1920s and 1930s alongside archival evidence of real or imagined affairs involving travelers to the Soviet Union. The U.S. Left’s association of Soviet Russia with sexual possibility and female empowerment continued longer than it could in the Soviet Union itself.
Year: 2015
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Palgrave Macmillan website
Access Model: available as cloth and e-book
Publisher: Palgram Macmillan
Book Title: Red Love Across the Pacific: Political and Sexual Revolutions of the Twentieth Century
ISBN: 9781137522009

Dancing for Stalin: Pauline Koner's "Russian Days" and the Question of Stalinism (Book Section)
Title: Dancing for Stalin: Pauline Koner's "Russian Days" and the Question of Stalinism
Author: Julia L. Mickenberg
Editor: Paula Rabinowitz
Editor: Robbie Lieberman
Editor: Howard Brick
Abstract: This article focuses on modern dancer Pauline Koner's 18 months dancing and teaching in the Soviet Union, at the invitation of the Soviet government, from 1934-1936 in light of radical American dancers' attraction to the Soviet Union and in light of the Stalinist objectives that Koner wound up inadvertently serving as a young, idealistic woman trying to establish herself.
Year: 2015
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Michigan Publishing/Maize books
Access Model: Open access
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Book Title: Lineages of the Literary Left: Essays in Honor of Alan M. Wald
ISBN: 9781607853459

New Women in Red: Revolutionary Russia, Feminism, and the First Red Scare (Article)
Title: New Women in Red: Revolutionary Russia, Feminism, and the First Red Scare
Author: Julia L. Mickenberg
Abstract: This essay seeks to re-interpret both the gendered rhetoric of the First Red Scare as well as the reasons why many feminists came under attack in the years following World War I. It underscores the ways in which women’s activist concerns were de-legitimized through accusations of Bolshevism, but also highlights the very real attractions that the Soviet system held for American women seeking peace, economic independence, voting rights, professional opportunity, and sexual freedom. Although a number of historians have demonstrated the ways in which a focus upon gender and women offers important insights into the First Red Scare, they have given only minimal attention to the Soviet Union’s appeal, presumably wishing to avoid giving credence to inflammatory and exaggerated right-wing rhetoric. However, this tendency has the effect of distorting the historical record and, in particular, of eliding revolutionary Russia’s role in fostering the American feminist imagination. Attention to several prominent targets of the First Red Scare, including Louise Bryant, Emma Goldman, and Rose Pastor Stokes, helps to clarify these dynamics.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Journal URL
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Article URL
Access Model: Subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Publisher: Cambridge University Press