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Capturing The Time of Change


Ruchika Sharma


Edited by Ipshita Chanda and Jayeeta Bagchi
Stree, Kolkata & School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, 2014, pp. 398, Rs. 550.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 3 March 2015

The book is an anthology of writings by women in Bengali, translated into English by various scholars and edited by, Ipshita Chanda and Jayeeta Bagchi. It is an impressive collection of 65 articles, covering almost 80 years in 400-odd pages. This is a judicious attempt to bring together writings of women, capturing the time of change in Indian political and social scenarios of pre-partitioned Bengal. The attempt is also to bring out gender relations along with women’s question in the era of social reforms and on-going debates in Bengal. The book has two different introductions by both the editors. One introduction focusing specifically on women writing about gender and the other one, chalking out the issue of education and gender in nineteenth-century Bengal from where the book takes off. It is then divided into thematic sections—Part I Breaking the Mould, Part II The Emerging ‘New’ Woman, Part III Refiguring Family and Relationships, Part IV ‘Working’ For The Nation, and Part V Gendering Public Space. The writings are mostly articles, but also a letter to the editor, one letter, two memoirs, and one‘true’ story—all published in contemporary journals.   Each section follows the chronology of the article’s publication, often with a detailed biography of the writer, her family and educational background and a list of her other works and honours. Most of them had received formal education, many had higher education too, and some were first in their respective fields to study/work/or head some institution. Another reason why it becomes important is because most of these women are aware of the women’s movement in the West, the Indian national movement, education policies that were being formed, statistics, shastras and other religious texts, voting and property rights and so on. Not only does that reflect in their writings but they use this information and knowledge to argue their case.   Some biographical details were extremely fascinating, adding to the overall tone of the book. Like Mahmuda Khatun Siddiqua, who wrote her narrative ‘Drinking Tea for the First Time’ in Gulistan (1933), is said to have rebelled against her grandmother’s wishes and had refused purdah at the age of twelve (p. 219). Some women here chose to remain anonymous or use pseudonyms, and often came up with radical set of views. Like Banganari was a pseudonym used by Anindita Devi, who published two articles in Bharati in the year 1921 that ...


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