Women’s Battalions were all-female combat units formed after the February Revolution by the Russian Provisional Government in a last-ditch effort to inspire the mass of war-weary soldiers to continue fighting in World War I.
In the spring of 1917, male shock units and battalions of death were created from pools of enthusiastic volunteers to lead the way in battle. Already some women had successfully petitioned to join regular military units, and now a number began pressing the new Provisional Government to create special women’s battalions. These women, along with a number of high-ranking members of the Russian government and military administration, believed that female soldiers would have significant propaganda value and that their example would revitalize the weary, demoralized men of the Russian army. Simultaneously, they hoped the presence of women would shame hesitant male soldiers into resuming their combat duties.
Fifteen formations were created in 1917, including the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, a separate unit called the 1st Petrograd Women’s Battalion formed a few weeks later inPetrograd, the 2nd Moscow Women’s Battalion of Death created in Moscow, and the 3rd Kuban Women’s Shock Battalion organized in Ekaterinodar. Four communications detachments were created in Moscow and Petrograd. Seven additional communications units were created in Kiev and Saratov, again employing privately organized women’s units already existing in those cities. Additional unsanctioned battalions sprang in cities across Russia. An all-female naval unit was created in Oranienbaum, the 1st Women’s Naval Detachment, as part of the Naval Infantry Training Detachment.
American reporter Bessie Beatty estimated the total number of women serving in these gender-segregated units at 5,000 in the fall of 1917, but only the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death and the Perm Battalion were deployed to the front. (source: wikipedia)
The picture comes from the Domenica del Corriere weekly.