Historians have identified two dominant currents in the Russian women's movement of the late tsarist period. "Bourgeois" feminism, so called by its more radical opponents, emphasized "individualist" feminist goals such as access to education, career opportunities, and legal equality. "Socialist" feminists, by contrast, emphasized class, rather than gender, as the principal source of women's inequality and oppression, and socialist revolution, not legal reform, as the only road to emancipation and equality.
However, despite antagonism between bourgeois feminists and socialist feminists, the two movements shared certain underlying beliefs. Both regarded paid labor as the principal means by which women might attain emancipation: participation in the workplace and economic self-sufficiency, they believed, would make women socially useful and therefore deserving of equality with men. Both groups also recognized the enormous difficulties women faced when they combined paid labor with motherhood. In fact, at the First All-Russian Women's Congress in 1908, most participants advocated maternity insurance and paid maternity leave, although the intense hostility between some socialists and bourgeois feminists at the Congress made it difficult for them to recognize these areas of agreement. Finally, socialist feminists and most bourgeois feminists concurred in subordinating women's emancipation to what they considered the more important goal of liberating the entire Russian population from political oppression, economic backwardness, and social injustice.