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Women Write about Women

From the early twentieth century, Muslim women played a notable role in promoting education among women.

Primary school for girls was started at Aligarh.

Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta.


                                                  Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain


Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was born into a rich family who owned a lot of land. She learnt to read and write Urdu. She was not allowed to learn English, as it was considered as a language that would expose girls to new ideas, which people thought were not correct for them.

Then Rokeya started writing books. Her most popular story was Sultana’s Dream which she wrote in the year 1905. She was 25 years old when she wrote this book. She mainly wrote this book to practise her English.

Education and learning had changed Rokeya’s own life. Rokeya did not stop at getting education just for herself. Her education gave her the power not only to dream and write, but also to do more – to help other girls go to school and to build their own dreams. In 1910, she started a school for girls in Kolkata, and to this day, the school is still functioning.

Begum Rokeya was an inspiring figure who contributed much to the struggle to liberate women from the bondage of social malaises. To raise popular consciousness, especially among women, she wrote a number of articles, stories and novels, mostly in Bengali. She is most famous for her efforts on behalf of gender equality and other social issues. She was a fearless critic of conservative ideas, arguing that religious leaders of every faith accorded an inferior place to women.

  • In the 1880s, Indian women started going to universities for higher education.
  • They became doctors and teachers.

  • Many women began to write about the place of women in society.

They were…

Tarabai Shinde

Tarabai Shinde

Tarabai Shinde was a feminist activist who protested about the caste system. She is known for her book, Stri Purush Tulana which means "A Comparison between Women and Men". The book criticises the social differences between men and women.


                                                            Pandita Ramabai

Pandita Ramabai


Pandita Ramabai was the youngest child of Anant Shastri, a social reformer who believed in educating women. She described herself as rejecting Hinduism, and chose to marry a Shudra. Her husband died young, and at 23 she found herself widowed with a young child.

After her husband's death she converted to Christianity. She went abroad to study, and focused on the treatment of widows in India. She wrote two books -- Stridharma Niti and The High Caste Hindu Woman. She founded an ashram for widows, Mukti, where women of all castes ate and lived together. This was far-reaching at that time, but she persisted in spite of the negative response from the community. She translated the Bible into Marathi.

  • The changes that were introduced by these bold women alarmed the orthodox people of India. Many of them felt that the Indian women were adopting Western ways. They felt that it would corrupt Hindu culture and erode family values.

  • Orthodox Muslims were also worried about the impact of these changes.

The whole scenario changed as women became actively involved in reforms.

  • They wrote books and started schools.

  • They started training centres, and set up women’s associations.

  • They formed political pressure groups to push through laws for the right for females to vote.

  • They fought for better health care and education for women.

  • They joined various nationalist and socialist movements from the 1920s.

Jawaharlal Nehru

Subhas Chandra Bose

Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose supported their demands for greater equality and freedom. Nationalist leaders promised that women will be allowed to vote. Women were now involved in the anti-British struggles.

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