In 1917, at the age of forty, Smith alumna Madeleine Z. Doty, ’00 traveled to Russia as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and Good Housekeeping. This was not Doty’s first venture abroad. She had already been in Germany the previous year in 1916, from where she had reported for the New York Tribune about the effects of the war on Germany’s poor. Now, she would turn her keen observations onto the upheavals in Russia and provide an eye witness account for the American public at home.
Rushing on the train through Siberia, she heard of the rapid changes in Petrograd, as she describes in the article, “Revolutionary Justice,” she later published in Atlantic: “The working class had risen. The extreme left of the Socialists, the Bolsheviks, had gained control…overturning the Provisional Government under Kerensky, which had not succeeded in providing what the working people wanted—peace, bread, and land (130).” During her six weeks in Petrograd, Doty would go on to observe first hand this tumultuous period in Russian history, interviewing deposed ministers of the previous government, imprisoned under dire conditions; witnessing chaotic trials of the Revolutionary Tribunal, which had replaced the judges and lawyers who had been abolished overnight; and befriending Maxim Gorky, who criticized and condemned the Bolsheviks, but also tried to help.
Upon her arrival in the midst of winter, Doty suffered from sickness and poverty in unfamiliar surroundings. Holed up in a hotel as the streets filled with more and more revolutionary tension, she observed the increasingly “wild disturbances” and tried to figure out how to navigate social clashes. With a revolution underway, Doty did not have access to medical care, and when she finally did, the doctor did not have medication as the chemists were on strike. The revolution affected all aspects of daily life, including hers.
In the detailed and very personal account of her experiences , she recalls her initial difficulties and fears: “I lay and shivered, and waited for street fighting to begin. When the machine guns opened fire, what should I do? If the soldiers entered to search or loot, would they spare me? How was I to explain that I was an American, and a worker, not a capitalist?” ( 130).
The question of survival in a world that was changing daily became an urgent reality. Each day brought new risks as the world outside became more and more chaotic: “Everywhere there was movement and action, but without violence. People stopped to argue. Voices were high, and arms moved widely. It was a people intensely alive and intensely intelligent. Everyone had an opinion” (129). Relying increasingly on the housemaid for help and friendship, Doty eventually grew more at ease. In time, her sickness lifted and she began to appreciate the liveliness of her surroundings. “Often I gazed from my window, and always I saw a great surging mass of people; and the more I looked the better I liked the people. They were so alive and eager” (130). Her friendship with the maid helped her develop a sense of camaraderie with the Russian people. Each day she learned more about the tensions that were occurring all around her and became more comfortable in this new setting. “Often I was on the street until midnight, but no one molested me; I had only to smile and say ‘Amerikanski, Bolshevik. Tavarish [comarade],’ to have a hundred hands stretched out in aid. I got caught in great crowds and was unafraid” (131). It was in these moments that Doty gained a new understanding of both the Bolshevik Revolution and its supporters.
She began to interpret more accurately the people’s reactions. Their anger was not wild and unpredictable. They did not just lash out indiscriminately at anyone. Rather, the Bolsheviks targeted their anger at specific people, the real threat to their livelihood, in order to make their point. “One night Jack Reed was held up and robbed,” Doty relates of her fellow journalist and socialist activist in her article, “But he knew a few Russian words and explained that he was an American and a Socialist. Whereupon his possessions were promptly returned, his hand cordially shaken, and he went off rejoicing” (131). As this anecdote suggests, the Bolshevik revolution was not one of unfocused blind hatred, but rather a calculated uprising that would lead to the Communist ideal of social equality the Russian people so desired. “Life was a continual battle, as it always has been, between the people who have, and the people who have not” (130).
Aside from documenting her experiences in writing, Doty also brought back postcards of the social movements taking place in Russia at the time.
One such image shows workers at a rally holding a banner that reads “Да здравствует советъ рабочихъ и солдатскихъ депутатовъ,” or “Long live the Soviet of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ deputies,” which was the full name of the Petrograd Soviet, created in March 1917 as an alternative to the Provisional Government led by Alexander Kerensky. They fought for power up until the Bolshevik Revolution when the Provisional Government dissolved.
After having seen firsthand such turmoil and unrest, Doty made pacifism, diplomacy, governmental work, and international education her life’s enterprise. From 1925-1939, Doty held a prominent position in the peace movement as the International Secretary for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). She also worked for the League of Nations as editor of Pax International. After the collapse of the League of Nations, Doty focused on propagating pacifism through education. In hopes of creating a more peaceful world, she founded the first JYA Geneva program for the University of Delaware in 1938. In a 1960 letter to a friend, Doty explains, “In 1936-37, I visited college after college in the U.S. urging them to establish a year of international studies in Geneva. At that time, the U. S. was isolationist and most universities saw no value in such a year. But at last President Hullihen of the University of Delaware saw the point. It was not necessary to believe in the League of Nations but at least students should know about it and about international affairs.”
The Second World War interrupted the program, one of the first in international education in Geneva, but Doty was not discouraged. After the war, during which she earned a Doctorate in International Relations at the University of Geneva, she approached Smith College. As she continues to explain in the same 1960 letter to her friend, “President Davis became deeply interested and agreed that Smith College would undertake to establish a year of International studies in Geneva.” Doty went on to organize and run a JYA program for Smith College in Geneva from 1946 until 1949, when she retired at the age of 70.
Thus, Doty was able to draw upon her diverse international experiences to help Smith students effectively engage in and learn from communities around the world.
Though she went through many transitions throughout her life, Doty never wavered from her ideal of promoting international peace and equality, especially through education. The many Smith students who enroll in the Smith program in Geneva every year continue to benefit from her dedication to integrating an international perspective in education.
Madeleine Zabriskie Doty Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Finding aid and collection related correspondence, 1963-1972. Box 1, Folder 1.
Madeleine Zabriskie Doty Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. “Revolutionary Justice” Article, July 1918. Box 4, Folder 38.
Madeleine Zabriskie Doty Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Doctoral thesis, “The Central Organization for a Durable Peace (1915-1919),” University of Geneva,1945. Box 4, Folder 47.
Class of 1900, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Doty, Madeleine Z. Letter to Betty Whitney, March 8, 1960.
Madeleine Zabriskie Doty Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Photographs of Travels through Germany and Russia, 1915-1918. Box 3, Folder 31; Folders 25, 27, 33, and 34; and Box 1, Folder 3.
Thanks to Emily Paruolo for translating the Russian and adding some historical context.
Samantha Bergman is an East Asian Studies and Anthropology double major with a passion for languages and a strong belief in the importance of developing cultural literacy. As a Global STRIDE Scholar, she studied Chinese intensively in Hefei, China. She looks forward to further developing her understanding of Asia while studying abroad in Vietnam and China next year. Ultimately, she aspires to facilitate successful cross-cultural interactions as a Foreign Service Officer.
Marisa Hopwood, ’18, is an English Language and Literature major. She enjoys studying 16th century literature, especially that of Shakespeare, and is fascinated with the way the world presents itself through literature. She is inspired by people and nature and hopes that through travel, she will gain a better understanding of the world she lives in, in order to write about it well. She plans to study abroad in London junior year and ultimately, pursue a career in the publishing industry after graduation.