Russia had rules forbidding women joining the army, but some did. For the first few years of the war, the few women who actually fought in the front lines required required the complicity of military officals-- except one. Maria Leontievna Bochareva was the third daughter of a pesant family. She as born in Novgorod Oblast in 1889. Badly beaten by her alcoholic father, she left home at fifteen to marry Afansi Bochkareva. The couple moved to Tomsk, Siberia where they worked as labourers on a construction site. A good organiser, Maria eventually became a foreman of a team of 25 make workers. Physically abused by her husband, Maria left him and found work on a stemship. Later she married a second man, Yakov Buk, but he was also violent towards her and in 1914 she left him and joined the 25th Reserve Battalion of the Russian Army. Although the men laughed at having women in their reiment, she soon gained their respect in battle.She addmitted in her autobiography: "The news of a woman recruit had preceded me at the barracks and my arrival there precipitated a riot of fun. The men assumed that I was a loose- moraled woman who had made her way into the ranks for the sake of carring on her illicit trade. Over the next three years Maria was wounded twice and decorated three times for her bravery. Florance Farmborough, a nurse working in Russia, recorded in her diary:Maria Bochkareva... a Siberian woman soilder had served in the Russian Army since 1915 side by side with her husband; when he had been killed, she continued to fight. In May 1917 Maria persuaded Alexander Kerensky, the country's new leader, to follow her to form a Woman's Battalion. In a speech given in June, she agrued: "Come with us in the name of your fallen heros. Come with us to dry the tears and heal the wounds of Russia. Protect her with your lives. We woman are turning into tigresses to protect our children of a shameful yoke - to protect the...
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