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Talking of Power: Early Writings of Bengali Women – Edited by Malini Bhattacharya & Abhijit Sen

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Description

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, from the Foreword

These writings, translated for the first time from Bangla, 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 belonged to 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 article cover a whole range of social issues: powerlessness, domestic management, the Swadeshi movement, what to wear outisde the house when leaving seclusion, and financial independence. They wrote 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.

About the Editors

Malini Bhattacharya retired as Professor, Department of English, Jadavpur University and is a former Director of the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University.

Abhijit Sen retired as Publication Officer, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University.

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