Women Suffrage. Sewing Machine Day. September 1

Women Suffrage. Sewing Machine Day. September 1

Soviet Poster of 1944 glorifying women’s ability for menial work: “One, two, Heave!”

Nothing to Fight For

Women suffrage just turned 100. The International Sewing Machine Day came and went on June 13. Today, September 1, is the first day of school in my old world (now Knowledge Day, I’m told). Somehow the web linked these unrelated topics in my mind – the web and god, in this order, work in mysterious ways.

There isn’t much I could say about suffrage. Don’t forget, my old country’s constitution was so perfect that it left nothing to fight for. Soviet women voted alongside men to ensure the 99.9% were given to the single person on the ballot.

A woman operating an asphalt-laying machine. (Photo from http://pryf.livejournal.com/2114407.html).

As proudly, they paved roads and carried bricks – equality meant equality, never mind the capitalist notion of physical limitations.

Zinger the Freedom Machine

Now to the Sewing Machine Day. The National Day calendar is chock-full of reasons to celebrate if you’re looking for one. Between Dance Like a Chicken Day and Lost Sock Memorial Day, everything is covered. It’s unknown why the Sewing Machine Day was assigned to June 13. Maybe because Isaac Singer’s last marriage took place on that day. While the bride was the model for the Statue of Liberty, the groom contributed wealth commensurate with his name and his proven knack for fruitful relationships. When all is said and done, he died as father to at least 20 children.

But even if Singer – pronounced in Russian as Zinger – is the synonym of the sewing machine he did not invent it. He transformed it. He transformed the textile industry. More than the industry. The machine transformed lives the way the personal computer transformed lives. Countless families could count on maintaining their clothes and offering their seamstressing and designing skills to others. Countless women found their independence in this gig economy.

Zinger the Lifesafer

So, yes, the sewing machine deserves its own Day. Our sewing machine deserves its Day, its memorial. The Zinger was our most valuable and precious possession. Not a possession, a family member.

Vintage hand-driven Singer sewing machine similar to one manufactured in 1873 and used by Polina from about 1904 until 1972

My grandmother received it at 13, in 1904, when it became clear that her clothes mending and remaking talent justified a capital investment. The gilt lettering on the hand-driven Zinger announced its birth year – 1873. 

When evacuating from Kiev before the Nazi took the city in 1941, she only brought her Zinger and thread bobbins and some fabric with her. In the safety of Siberia, she acquired wide skirts at the flea market and whipped out child-size skirts and dresses that proved easy to barter for food.

Soviet School Classroom. Photo from: https://defendingrussia.ru/a/russkaya_sovetskaya_sistema_obuchenija-6547/

The next big project for Zinger was my school uniform dress and the pinafores, everyday black and holiday white. Both lasted 11 years, until graduation, thanks to secret and not-secret folds that were gingerly let out as I grew.

Sewing on Over-collar and Over-cuffs to School Uniform. Picture by Evgenia Dvoskin. From: http://www.izbrannoe.com/news/iskusstvo/dlya-tekh-kto-pomnit-nashe-proshloe-v-risunkakh-evgenii-dvoskinoy/

My job was to attach the white over-collar and over-cuffs every Sunday, with one exception: I was not trusted with that task on the eve of September 1 because it was evident I did not inherit the sewing talent.

For my 25th birthday, my grandmother made me a fancy velvet robe. Then Zinger grudgingly let me handle it to produce a few basic outfits and pajamas for my girls when she was not well any longer but its heart wasn’t in it. It quit for good when she died.

The date 1873 made this sacred keepsake a cultural treasure that belonged to the motherland and therefore required a special permission of the Ministry of Culture to take it out of the country. We didn’t petition for it.    

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