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Anagol-McGinn, Padma (1994) Women's consciousness and assertion in colonial India: Gender, social reform and politics in Maharashtra, c.1870-c.1920. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis explores the complexities of an emergent feminist consciousness among Maharashtrian women in the context of the socio-religious reform movements in late nineteenth century and early twentieth century India. It analyses how self- assertion was articulated through a gendered critique of Hindu religion and society. In constant interaction and at times in tension with the text-based colonial and indigenous discourses, their ideology it is argued was informed by experience. Critical of Eurocentric models of feminism, this study adopts alternative methods of reading and defining colonial women's perceptions and protests. Thus, the study takes as its starting- point the view of the Maharashtrian woman herself as she engages with the state and Indian men. In the first chapter the attempts of female converts to Christianity in negotiating with the changing world around them is studied. Christian women's pioneering welfare schemes are studied in detail showing how their feminist critiques and alternative lifestyles provided inspiration to women of their time. It is argued that their feminism was a result of their analysis of Hinduism and ultimate rejection of it. How Hindu women gained partial autonomy is studied through their separate female institution building programmes. However, it is argued that Hindu women's critique of Indian society and Hinduism and their action was constrained by their decision to stay within the Hindu structures. In the third and fourth chapters on women's resistance various individual and collective forms of dissent by women against the state and Indian males are outlined which primarily point to survival issues being the core of resistance. A case-study of infanticide in chapter four shows women resisting cultural practices like the ban on widow-remarriage. In the last two chapters, a study of the movement for higher education of females, legislation on restitution of conjugal rights, divorce and the age of consent is undertaken. While it demonstrates the participation of women in popular protest movements of the nineteenth century it also reveals a great divergence in the precepts and practices of the state and Indian men highlighting their unwillingness to hand over decision-making processes to women over gender-related issues. The thesis concludes by attributing the fruition in feminist consciousness of women to a selective appropriation of dominant discourses of the time, namely those of the missionary, religious revivalist, orientalist and reformist. Finally, it is suggested that women themselves chose to join the nationalist politics of early twentieth century rather than being led into it by influential leaders like Gandhi.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04

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