This book examines how the identities of women and girls in colonial India were shaped by interaction with each other, a masculine raj and feminist and non-feminist philanthropists situated mostly outside India. These identities were determined by the emotional and sexual needs of men, racial hybridity, mission and religious orders, European accomplishments mentalities, restricted teacher professionalism and far more expansive medical care interaction. This powerful vista is viewed mostly through the imagery of feminine sensibility rather than feminism as the most consistent but changing terrain of self-actualisation and dispute over the long time period of the book. National, international and colonial networks of interaction could build vibrant colonial, female identities, while just as easily creating dystopias of female exploitation and abuse. These networks were different in each period under study in the book, emerging and withering away as the interplay of state imperatives and female domesticity, professionalism and piety changed over time. Based on extensive archival work in many countries, the book provides important context for studies of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial women in many colonial domains. The book also explains why colonial mentalities regarding females in India were so different to those on the nationalist side of the story in the early twentieth-century. This was even when feminist discourse was offered by a failing raj to claim new modernity after World War One and when key women activists in India chose, instead, to cross over to occupy spaces of Indian asceticism and community living.

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Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932

In 1888 Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner published The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook . 1 This book, offering advice to European women on how to supervise their households in colonial India, proved very popular and ran to many editions. It contained the following guidance regarding the employment of Indian women to nurse European babies

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932

, as well as the boys, as being worthy recipients of such theories in India in the late 1850s and early 1860s. These methods of teaching, particularly their heuristic elements, were also a radical departure from anything previously known in colonial India. Further, they placed the child at the ‘centre’ of the teaching and learning process and vested in him or her a capacity to learn intuitively, using

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932

addition, the new direction of teacher training of women was premised on the stereotyping of Indian schoolgirls as supine, dull and mendacious, thus justifying their exclusion from the education agenda of colonial India. In this, Bengal education inspectors again readily obliged, as one of their reports articulated: The [Indian] Female Schools which I have seen

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932
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‘Learning femininity’ in colonial India is one of the simplest and least aggressive phrases that might be used to describe any part of the imperial project. The raj’s official rhetorical repertoire intentionally promoted ‘female education’ as a soft and consistent moral purpose that could only improve the ‘condition’ of women in India. As this book demonstrates

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932

British forms of female medical professionalism became consolidated in India towards the end of the nineteenth century, even though application in the field, by the raj, ignored the missionary versus secular medical carer dichotomy that was evident to most European participants on the subcontinent at that time. Significantly, the race and class divides in colonial India, so strongly

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932
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A new professional learning space, 1865–90

crossover and associated networks that drove change concerning female medical care were complex and interrelated between Britain and colonial India. In Britain, the barrier to females joining the medical profession as physicians was still too strong for women to be able to respond adequately, through their professional actions, to either the emerging missionary or the secular medical dynamic concerning

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932

in its articulation, the actual application of this principle offered a degree of sympathetic connection to local aspirations met by the order around the globe in the age of empires. As for colonial India, this Loreto philosophy, and the mostly Roman Catholic ecclesiastical networks it worked within, were accommodating enough to Indians to be seen by them as standing outside the agenda of the British

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932
Feminine and feminist educators and thresholds of Indian female interaction, 1870–1932

, particularly in the field of education, for the Maharani the justifiable and different ‘deep-rooted’ cultural roles for Indians of both sexes meant Indian female activism would follow a course that was ‘evolution not revolution’. 11 Western women projected radically different perspectives concerning the applicability of Western feminism to colonial India from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. These

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932
Race and pedagogy, 1883–1903

Westminster. By this time, Britain could see a new schoolgirl in India that safely resembled those in the home country: schoolgirls that were almost invariably middle-class Europeans and Eurasians. Class, as well as race, now also became a strong determinant concerning the education of women and girls in the 1880s. In part this development was due to a changing European demographic in colonial India in the

in Learning femininity in colonial India, 1820–1932