'Modern women are trying to do too much. Nobody can be successful in a profession or business, run a home in addition and still have time and energy left for friends, reading, music and other necessities of a larger life.' This is the opinion of a distinguished visitor to America, Dr. Antonina Kazimiroff, the only woman dentist in Shanghai, China, a Russian who fled St. Petersburg when th Bolsheviks overthrew the Czar.
'A fine old Chinese servant who speaks Russian gives me my leisure by managing everything in our home.' Dr. Kazimiroff said, generously. 'Our little Shanghai establishment runs like a Russian menage and is 'home' to many Shanghai Russians who like myself suffer nostalgia at times. I have my work and my play and my life is full without keeping house too.'
An Unhurtled Careerist
Dr. Kazimiroff has the repose of a woman with a well-ordered life. Meticulously groomed and dressed with admirable taste in smart French clothes, she is a charming exponent of a less hurried existence than most American careerists know. She is in America to do intensive study for a few months on advanced dentistry. From here she will go to London, Berlin and Vienna for similar research work and back next year to her Shanghai clientele.
In fact, there are none of the earmarks of a pioneer careerist about her. Yet, when she left her home in Vladivostok to study medicine in St. Petersburg twenty odd years ago, she was the only girl in her classes and when graduated, the only woman dentist there. 'When we finished school in Vladivostok, the idea of women going into professions was in the air,' she explained. 'I went with three other girl friends on that long trans-Siberian trip clear across Russia to reach college. We felt such adventurers! I deliberately chose dentistry because no women were in the field and I felt I had a better chance to succeed.'
Her choice proved excellent. After post-graduate work in Berlin, Dr. Kazimiroff was made Assistant Professor of Dentistry at Petrograd University which position she held, in addition to private practice, when the revolution broke. 'All of my family escaped unharmed.' Her face clouded as she recalled those strenuous times 10 years ago. 'In fact, we have a regular settlement of Russian relatives and friends in Shanghai today.'
Chinese, both men and women, are numbered among Dr. Kazimiroff's patients. She is tremendously interested in Chinese children's teeth because preventive dental work is just beginning in Shanghai. 'One of my most interesting patients is a very old, high caste Chinese lady who never goes out of her home so I must go to her.' Dr. Kazimiroff smiled. 'She will never appear in the daytime so I must go at night. It is a social visit, with much etiquet extended and observed before I set up my machinery and begin work on her teeth.'
Chinese Women Domestic
'The Chinese are a fascinating people, greatly aroused now with their new social and economic ideas. But I think it will be a very long time before Chinese women will take professions earnestly. They have no scientific background. Literature, philosophy and sociology are giving them intellectual freedom. It will take several generations before they have any idea of real economic freedom.'
There is real antipathy in China to women entering professions, according to Dr Kazimiroff. This was never so in Russia. 'All are 'people' in Russia,' she observed. 'Being a women doctor, engineer, or any other professional was never a matter to a make a fuss about. I am amazed at how American women in business and professions capitalize on the fact of their sex.'
A rounded life, with concentrated work and leisure to play, is Dr. Kazimiroff's prescription for success. Her office close daily for two hours while she has 'tiffin.' Tennis, motoring, walking and swimming have regular places in her program. Reading several hours daily is there too. 'A career is to be enjoyed, not just made a success off,' she smiled in a quiet way. 'I am fascinated by my work, can never read enough about it or see enough new work in my line. But I think I would get very one-sided if I did not have my leisure too.'
Times Herald, New York. Thursday, July 11, 1929.
Antonina Kazimirow's profile in Zhiganov's Russians in Shanghai (1936).
Dr. A. M. Kazimirow's ad in a local newspaper in 1930.