Once one of the wealthiest members of the Russian aristocracy, Sofia Panina spent her final years living on a pension while in exile from her homeland. Adele Lindenmeyr
’s book Citizen Countess: Sofia Panina and the Fate of Revolutionary Russia
(University of Wisconsin Press, 2019) recounts the eventful life of this remarkable woman, who through her dedication to helping others broke many of the barriers facing the women of her era. The daughter of a count and the granddaughter of an industrialist, at an early age Panina was removed from her widowed mother’s care and enrolled in a boarding school. After a failed marriage at a young age, Panina focused on a career in philanthropy, establishing a settlement house in St. Petersburg that provided needed services for the workers living in the city. In the aftermath of the February Revolution in 1917 Panina served on the Petrograd city council and as an assistant cabinet minister—the first female cabinet member in world history – before the Bolshevik Revolution in November led to her trial and imprisonment. Though the Bolsheviks’ victory in the civil war forced Panina into exile for the rest of her life, Lindenmeyr shows how her life remains relevant to Russians today, as they gain a renewed appreciation for her many achievements.