Talking of Power

Early Writings of Bengali Women

Malini Bhattacharya,

Talking of Power: Early Writings of Bengali Women

About the eBook

‘Around the middle of the nineteenth century, a social category was born in Bengal, along with a new word that named it: lekhika or the female author.’—Tanika Sarkar, Foreword

These writings, translated for the first time from Bengali, form a path-breaking collection of issues that aimed at the empowerment of women and thus remain alive today. The women were the first to receive a ‘modern’ education, and became members of the reading and writing public that hitherto was entirely male. The writers came from urban elite backgrounds, most from Brahmo Samaj families, many comparatively unknown today like Bamasundari Devi or Kumudini Mitra as well as more famous ones from the Tagore family—Swarnakumari Devi and her daughters. Some were Hindus like Kailashbasini Devi and Krishnabhabini Das, among others. There are also two Muslim women writers—the brilliant Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and the social reformer Khairunnissa Khatun.

The articles cover a whole range of social issues: social powerlessness, domestic management, the Swadeshi movement, what to wear outside the house when leaving seclusion, and financial independence. Writing for the new journals that came up as vernacular print media was expanding. Making their way into the literary world, the women opened up new roles for themselves and their successors.
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