Indian women in the early twentieth century stood at the threshold of changing times. A social reform movement for women’s education came into focus at this time. However, despite efforts to promote higher education by Christian missionaries, the Indian intelligentsia, social reformers, and the British colonial government, there were disparities in its spread. It was still beyond the reach of women in general. Women’s education was not pervasive but reserved mainly for those coming from educationally enlightened families, where their parents and other relatives supported the reforms, offering them access to higher education. Feminist researchers, writing about this period, hold multiple views regarding Indian reformers and their efforts in women’s education. This paper attempts to draw attention to the social status of Indian women through the self-narratives of two accomplished women educationists from North India, Swarup Kumari Bakshi and Begum Hamida Habibullah, both of whom were witness to pre- and post-independence social and political dynamics. They represent two different religious cultures; however, their social background was quite similar. This paper, an oral history, is based on their independent perspectives, personal experiences and self-narratives shared with the author during interviews conducted in 2009. A comparison between the two narratives offers insights into the contemporary social position of women. It also offers reflections on the elitist approach of the social reforms, and the different viewpoints proffered by feminist writers regarding the relationship between the social position of women and promotion of their education by social reformers. The article concludes with reflection on late twentieth century attempts to transform women’s socio-educational status-quo.
Voicing Their Stories: A Discourse on the Relationship Between Education and the Social Position of Indian Women in the Mid-twentieth Century.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 21(2), 153-168.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol21/iss2/13