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Women and Print

Lives and feelings of women were written with intensity. This increased the number of women who took to reading. Liberal husbands and fathers started educating their womenfolk at home and some sent them to schools. Many journals began carrying writings by women, and explained why women should be educated. They also carried a syllabus and attached suitable reading matter which could be used for home-based schooling.


Superstition was a reason for illiteracy among a large population of women.

  • Conservative Hindus believed that a literate girl would be widowed
  • Muslims feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances.

Social reforms and novels created a great interest in women’s lives and emotions. Women’s opinions and views were slowly considered and respected. Stories were written about how about how women were imprisoned at home, kept in ignorance, forced to do hard domestic labour and treated unjustly by the very people they served. Stories about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows also appeared in print. These stories paved the way for the liberation of the suppressed Indian woman.

Other kinds of literature solely for women soon flooded the markets.

  • Article on household and fashion lessons for women
  • Articles on issues like women’s education, widowhood, widow remarriage and the national movement
  • Short stories and serialised novels
  • Folk literature

In Bengal, an entire area in central Calcutta – the Battala – was devoted to the printing of popular books. These books were being profusely illustrated with woodcuts and coloured lithographs. Peddlers took the Battala publications to homes, enabling women to read them in their leisure time.

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