Suwarsih Djojopuspito is among the most important early Indonesian women/feminist writers. This research intends to emphasize her rightful position among the first Indonesian feminist writers. Focusing on her very important novel Manusia Bebas (published originally in Dutch as Buiten het Gareelin 1940), one collection of short stories, Empat Serangkai (1954), and a novel written in Sundanese, Marjanah (1959), I argue that feminist spirits and ideas have actually been existing and elaborated in works by women writers in the era prior to the Indonesian New Order (1966-1998) as exemplified by Suwarsih’s works. What is important in these works is that despite the unjust gender and sexual construction, the women protagonists and characters are shown to find their agency through their awareness of their particular situation. Suwarsih reestablishes the construction of femininity and attributes it not to total submission and acceptance to males and the patriarchal culture but to female agency, subjectivity, and intelligence.

Author Biography

Aquarini Priyatna is currently teaching in the Department of Literature and Cultural Studies, University of Padjadjaran. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Institute for Women’s Studies Lancaster University, UK (2002) and another Master’s Degree from the Women’s Studies Post-Graduate Program, Universities Indonesia (2003). She completed her PhD, which looked at celebrity auto/biographies, at the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Monash University, Australia. She has published two books on Feminist Cultural Studies. Her latest book publication is on novels by Nh. Dini, a prominent Indonesian feminist writer.