Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952) Russian politician

Alexandra Kollontai was a Russian revolutionary, politician and writer, known for her On the question of Class Struggle, which was published in 1905, parallel to the Russian Revolution of 1905. As commissar for public welfare she was the only female member of the first Bolshevik government. She campaigned for domestic reforms such as acceptance of free love, simplification of divorce laws and collective childcare.

Kollontai began her political work in 1894 by teaching evening classes for workers in St. Petersburg. Through that occupation she was drawn into both public and clandestine work with the Political Red Cross, an institute set up to help political prisoners. In 1895, she read August Bebel's Woman and Socialism, which had a major effect on her ideas and activity.

In 1896, while on a visit of a large textile factory with her husband, she saw the appalling circumstances endured by factory workers. Thereafter she devoted herself to improving conditions for workingwomen. She was harassed by the authorities for her views and went into exile in 1908. She worked as a fulltime agitator for the German Social Democratic Party, and travelled in England, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland in the period before World War I. On her return to the Soviet Union in 1917, she joined the Bolsheviks. During this period she joined other female activists in pressing the Bolsheviks and the trade unions for more attention to organizing women, and helped lead a citywide laundry workers strike in Petrograd (as St. Petersburg was named during WW I). She was sent abroad by Stalin, first as trade minister, later as Soviet ambassador in Stockholm (Sweden) in 1943. She retired for health reasons in 1945. From 1946 until her death in 1952, she was an advisor to the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs.