1850 - 1910

Tarabai Shinde

Zubaan

The life of a pioneer in feminism

Tarabai Shinde
Tarabai Shinde, born in the Berar province of Buldhana, was a women’s right’s activist who protested patriarchy. Her first published work, Stri Purush Tulana, which translates to, A Comparison between Women and Men is considered to be one the country’s first modern feminist text. Her defiance of inherent patriarchy in Hindu scriptures are views that remain controversial even today.
Education
Tarabai was born in 1850, a period when the British Raj was at its peak and the quality of life for women in the country had become worse. Tarabai’s father was Bapuji Hari Shinde, a head clerk in the office of Deputy Commissioner of Revenues. He was a radical thinker himself  who had a book published – Hint to the educated natives. A qualified academic with Tarabai as his only daughter, Bapuji honed her linguistic skills by teaching her languages such as Marathi, Sanskrit, and English. Due to societal norms at the time she became a child-bride.
Writer
When a widow aborted her unborn child, a criminal case was filed against her and she was sentenced to death. Tarabai decided to speak up against this act through her writings. This was the inception of India’s first modern feminist text, Stri Purush Tulana.500 copies of the book were printed in 1882 and the text was a commentary piece on the “behavior” of women as prescribed by religious text. The reception for the book from contemporary society was hostile and it remained undiscovered until its re-publication by S.G Malshe in 1975.

This was the inception of India’s first modern feminist text, Stri Purush Tulana.500 copies of the book were printed in 1882 and the text was a commentary piece on the "behavior" of women as prescribed by religious text. The reception for the book from contemporary society was hostile and it remained undiscovered until its re-publication by S.G Malshe in 1975.

Activism
Tarabai had begun working with social activists, Savitribai Phule and Jyotirao Phule, and was a member of the Satyashodak Samaj, or the Truth Seeker’s Society. In 1885, Jyotirao Phule wrote in defense of Tarabai’s Stri Purush Tulana in Satyashodak Samaj’s second issue of its magazine, Satsaar.

Until her death in 1910, Tarabai Shinde remained a voice against patriarchy and ill treatment of women. Her feminist text still remains a pamphlet of reference of many present-day women’s rights activists.

Zubaan, Ekta Singha
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Visuals: Ekta Singha

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