The Age and its Women

Bharathi Ray

in Early Feminists of Colonial India

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780198083818
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082186 | DOI:
The Age and its Women

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This chapter offers an overview of nineteenth century Bengali society, and the prevailing condition of women, both Hindu and Muslim. Dual standards of morality—a differential code of behaviour ordained for men and women—were the order of the day. The first woman in nineteenth century Bengal to make a passionate plea for the improvement of the status of women through the medium of the pen was Kailasbasini. Hindus and Muslims took two different routes when the British rule was established. The Hindus took full advantage of the opportunities offered by the British Government. Opting early for English education, the Hindus prospered, with access to government and other employment. Moreover, social reforms accompanied religious reforms, and a new ‘Hindu identity’ was fashioned, and womanhood was redefined. Nationalism gave a further fillip to it by endowing motherhood with new roles and political responsibilities. On the other hand, the Muslims were indifferent to British rule, and turned their face against English education. Inability to secure gainful employment coupled with reluctance to engage in trade and commerce, led to the decline in the circumstances of the Muslim community. The unequal development of the Hindu and the Muslim communities, especially of their middle classes, was a great tragedy in the social history of Bengal.

Keywords: Bengali women; nineteenth century Bengal; Hindu; Muslim; Kailasbasini; Hindu families; Muslim women; women’s status; English education; women and nationalism; Bengali social history; Muslim social reform; Hindu religious reform; Indian nationalism

Chapter.  13102 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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