Women Workers is a project in which Franki Raffles documented the lives of women in the USSR during the final months of communism. In the summer of 1989 she spent three months in three Soviet republics, Russia, Georgia, and the Ukraine.
Franki had first visited the USSR as a fifteen year old school student. Alongside her dedication to feminism and women’s liberation she was a firmly committed Marxist-Leninist. She was fascinated by the application of these principles in the lives of ordinary women.
The images in Women Workers were accompanied by frank, direct and sometimes humorous quotes taken from the women they depict. The images and text, celebrate the strength, resilience and vitality of the women, and are testament to Franki’s desire to actively engage with her subjects, rather than to objectify or exploit them.
The exhibition was shown in 1-21 May 1990 at the Pearce Institute, Govan, as part of the programme of events for Glasgow as European City of Culture. Then the pictures were transferred to be exhibited in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
This work, recording women’s lives as the Soviet system was about to collapse, can be viewed alongside the work of pioneer women social documentary photographers, such as Margaret Bourke-White, who were among the first to document life under communist rule sixty years earlier.
Women Workers Exhibition Poster