Bharathi Ray

in Early Feminists of Colonial India

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780198083818
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082186 | DOI:

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This chapter presents an evaluation of Sarala Devi Chaudhurani and Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Sarala and Rokeya were both greatly concerned with women’s issues, but they saw questions of gender through the lens of their own community, class, and culture. The nationalist construction of women was a potent influence on Sarala’s thoughts. She was generally perceived as an extraordinary woman, who transcended the ‘limitations’ of most women. Like Sarala, Rokeya thought deeply about power and politics, but hers was the politics of gender, and not that of anticolonialism or of pan-Asian identity. To her, the abanati of Muslim women was the real issue; the ways of attaining their unnati and advancing their education overshadowed every other consideration. She was among the first to ask for women’s paid employment in the interest of women’s economic independence. Concluding her comparisons of the life and times of the two women, the author notes that Sarala Devi, once an inspiration to many, is nowa page in history; however, Begum Rokeya remains a reviving source of inspiration.

Keywords: Sarala Devi Chaudhurani; Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain; Nineteenth century Bengal; feminist emancipation; women’s issues; women’s status; politics of gender; economic independence; gender equality; Muslim women; anti-colonialism

Chapter.  7838 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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