Ordinary Life in the USSR: Women and Children in the Soviet Union, 1961

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Estuary Press, May 28, 2022 - History
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Ordinary Life in the USSR 1961 tells the story of Harvey and Alice Richards amazing trip to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1961 in 200 pages with over 300 photos. I accompanied them on this five week journey as a 17 year old fresh out of high school. Their goal was to document the social safety network that existed in the Soviet Union for women and children in a socialist society. Alice Richards' script tells the story of our journey as she narrated the films “A Visit to the Soviet Union, Part 1: Women of Russia” and “A Visit to the Soviet Union, Part 2: Far from Moscow”. Her script is presented here as the text of the book along with Harvey Richards’ photography of the USSR during the Cold War. I added subheadings and captions (in italics) to the photos as needed.

The book follows the films as closely as possible adding many previously unpublished still images taken during the filming and many screen grabs from the films. The resulting book reveals the achievements of the USSR in creating a social safety network for women and children. Alice led our efforts in meeting and filming in a variety of settings including work places, maternity wards, schools, universities, homes and child care institutions, and even a fashion show. We spent most of our time in Moscow but also visited Sochi on the Black Sea coast, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Irkutsk in Siberia. 


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Liberated or Oppressed?
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About Alice Richards

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About the author (2022)

Paul David Richards was born in San Francisco, California in 1944 to working class parents, grew up in Oakland across the Bay. He attended Verde Valley School in Sedona Arizona where he rode horses and visited Mexico and the Indian reservations of the area. Entering the University of California in Berkeley in 1961, he became immersed in the student civil rights and peace movements, spent two month in jail for protesting racist hiring practices of bay area businesses, resisted the draft and opposed the war in Vietnam. He fled to Ghana, West Africa, briefly in 1966 to avoid the draft, returning after two months to face the jail sentences for past sit-in arrests. He flew from Paris and landed in San Francisco County Jail. Soon after, he moved to Madison Wisconsin, 1967-1971, where he earned a PhD in economic history specializing in labor history. Within a short time he left teaching to become a carpenter and spent 30 years in the building trades. His father, Harvey Richards, handed him his 22 films and thousands of still photos in 1987 at the end of Harvey's 30 year career as a photographer. Paul compiled some of his father's photos in a book, Critical Focus, and established Estuary Press to publish it and to license and archive the photo collection. Upon retiring from construction in 2011, he began collaboration with his wife, Nina Serrano, as an independent publisher at Estuary Press. He published Heart Suite, a trilogy of poetry books collecting Nina's poetry written from 1969 to 2012. He created website for Estuary Press at estuarypress.com, for Nina at ninaserrano.com and for the photo collection at The Harvey Richards Media Archive. He also created a YouTube channel for video previews of Harvey Richards' films and began creating videos for Nina and himself. The Harvey Richards Media Archive is built around the idea that Knowing Our History is the First Step in Changing Our World. Nina Serrano continues writing poetry, producing radio programs for KPFA and a monthly series called "Literary Dialogs with Nina Serrano" produced by Estuary Press. Ordinary Life in the USSR is the first volume of the Critical Focus Series.

Harvey Richards began using a camera in the 1950s when he was in his mid-forties. He became a photographer after years of working as a machinist in the San Francisco shipyards, and as a merchant seaman sailing the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. Before moving to San Francisco in 1940, Richards also worked as a union organizer in Philadelphia and Boston.

His photography began with a 35-millimeter still camera and a radical worker’s awareness of worldwide issues. By 1960 he built a photographic studio with a darkroom to develop film and print pictures. Before long, he augmented his still equipment with motion picture cameras—first, the hand wound Bolex 16 millimeter camera and then, the Arriflex battery powered camera with synchronous sound capabilities. Sound and film editing followed with recording equipment, tripods and an editing studio.

Throughout the 1960s, it was a common sight at local demonstrations of any size to see Richards standing atop his station wagon or van, two still cameras around his neck, looking through a tripod mounted motion picture camera.

During his most active years as a photographer, from 1958 to 1978, Harvey Richards produced twenty two films on many subjects including farm labor, the civil rights movement locally and in the southern U.S., and the peace and anti-war movements. His long time concern for the environment led to films exposing the wasteful forestry practices going on nationally, especially in northern California and in Oregon, where he was born and raised. All the photos in "Ordinary Life in the USSR" were produced during his 1961 trip to the Soviet Union with his wife, Alice Richards, and son, Paul Richards.

Alice Richards was born in 1915 in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in Santa Barbara California, the daughter of the wealthy Schott family, owners of a successful mining company in Colorado. She attended high school in Santa Barbara, and also in Switzerland. She received a BA from University of California, Berkeley, in 1949 and an MA from Stanford University in 1959. She earned her Junior College teaching credential from San Francisco State University in 1966. She authored the script of the film "A Visit to the Soviet Union" which is included in book "Ordinary Life in the USSR." She authored the article "Soviet Women: Liberated or Oppressed?" in 1978 which is also included in the book.

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