Discuss the role played by reformers in the 19th century for the emancipation of women.

Discuss the role played by reformers in the 19th century for the emancipation of women.

Approach:

  • Briefly give various social ills present in 19th century related to women.
  • Discuss the role played by reformers for emancipation of women.
  • Conclude with their limitations.
Model Answer :
In the 19th century, women were generally accorded a low status, with no identity of their own. They were further suppressed by practices such as purdah, early marriage, ban on widow remarriage, sati, polygamy etc. and discriminated against in education, inheritance etc. Watching women’s plight, some social reformers took it upon themselves to improve the status of women.
Role played by reformers for the emancipation of women:
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy- He was the first person to take an initiative to challenge the practice of Sati. He also made efforts to advocate widow re-marriage, attacked polygamy and the degraded status of widows.
  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar- The first Hindu Widow Remarriage Act was introduced in 1856 owing to his relentless efforts. He also protested against child-marriage, campaigned against polygamy, and championed female education.
  • Swami Vivekananda- He laid stress on the removal of religious superstitions, obscurantism, and outdated social customs. He motivated the people to respect women while he himself worked for women’s upliftment and education.
  • Sir Syed Ahmed Khan- He worked hard to raise the status of the Muslim women. He was against the purdah system, polygamy, easy divorce and lack of education among the girls. He made commendable efforts to promote women’s education.
  • Jyotirao Phule- He first educated his wife, after which both of them opened a school for girls in India in 1848 and took up the cause of women and started a girls’ school in Poona in 1851. He is also remembered for his efforts towards promoting widow remarriage.
  • Pandita Ramabai- She promoted girls education and started the Arya Mahila Samaj in1881, in Pune, to improve the condition of women, especially child widows. In 1889, she established the Mukti Mission, in Pune, a refuge for young widows who had been deserted and abused by their families.
The social reformers worked hard for the emancipation of women. But these reform movements had certain limitations. It affected a very small percentage of the population, mostly the educated class and could not reach the vast masses of the peasantry and urban poor who continued to live in the same conditions.

Subjects : History and Culture

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