Tarabai Shinde

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Tarabai Shinde
Born 1850
Buldhana, Berar Province, British India
Died 1910
Nationality Indian
Occupation feminist, women's rights activist, writer
Notable work Stri Purush Tulana (A Comparison Between Women and Men) (1882)

Tarabai Shinde (1850–1910)[1] was a feminist activist who protested patriarchy and caste in 19th century India. She is known for her published work, Stripurush Tulana ("A Comparison Between Women and Men"), originally published in Marathi in 1882. The pamphlet is a critique of upper-caste patriarchy, and is often considered the first modern Indian feminist text.[2] It was very controversial for its time in challenging the Hindu religious scriptures themselves as a source of women's oppression, a view that continues to be controversial and debated today.[3]

Early life and family[edit]

Born in 1850 to Bapuji Hari Shinde in Buldhana, Berar Province, in present-day Maharashtra, she was a founding member of the Satyashodhak Samaj, Pune. Her father was a radical and head clerk in the office of Deputy Commissioner of Revenues, he also published a book titled, "Hint to the Educated Natives" in 1871. There was no girls' school in the area. Tarabai was the only daughter and was taught Marathi, Sanskrit and English by her father. She also had four brothers.[4][5] Tarabai was married when quite young, but was granted more freedom in the household than most other Marathi wives of the time since her husband moved into her parents' home.[6]

Social work[edit]

Shinde was an associate of social activists Jotirao and Savitribai Phule and was a founding member of their Satyashodak Samaj ("Truth Finding Community") organisation. The Phules shared with Shinde an awareness of the separate axes of oppression that constitute gender and caste, as well as the intermeshed nature of the two.

Stri Purush Tulana[edit]

In her essay, Shinde criticised the social inequality of caste, as well as the patriarchal views of other activists who saw caste as the main form antagonism in Hindu society. According to Susie Tharu and K. Lalita, "...Stri Purush Tulana is probably the first full fledged and extant feminist argument after the poetry of the Bhakti Period. But Tarabai's work is also significant because at a time when intellectuals and activists alike were primarily concerned with the hardships of a Hindu widow's life and other easily identifiable atrocities perpetrated on women, Tarabai Shinde, apparently working in isolation, was able to broaden the scope of analysis to include the ideological fabric of patriarchal society. Women everywhere, she implies, are similarly oppressed."

Stri Purush Tulana was written in response to an article which appeared in 1881, in Pune Vaibhav, an orthodox newspaper published from Pune, about a criminal case against a young Brahmin (upper-caste) widow, Vijayalakshmi in Surat, who had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate son for the fear of public disgrace and ostracism and sentenced to be hanged (later appealed and modified to transportation for life).[4][7][6] Having worked with upper-caste widows who were forbidden to remarry, Shinde was well aware of incidents of widows being impregnated by relatives. The book analysed the tightrope women must walk between the "good woman" and the "prostitute". The book was printed at Shri Shivaji Press, Pune, in 1882 with 500 copies at cost nine annas,[8] but hostile reception by contemporary society and press, meant that she did not publish again.[9] The work however was praised by Jyotirao Phule, a prominent Marathi social reformer, who referred to Tarabai as chiranjivini (dear daughter) and recommended her pamphlet to colleagues. The work finds mention in the second issue of Satsar, the magazine of Satyashodhak Samaj, started by Jyotiba Phule in 1885, however thereafter the work remained largely unknown till 1975, when it was rediscovered and republished.[2]


From the introduction:

"I'm just a poor woman without any real intelligence, who's been kept locked up and confined...But every day now we have to look at some new and more horrible example of men who are really wicked, and their shameless lying tricks. And people go about pinning the blame on women all the time, as if everything bad was their fault. When I saw this, my whole mind began churning and shaking.. I lost all my fear, I just couldn't stop myself writing about it in this very biting language."
"So is it true that only women's bodies are home to all the different kinds of recklessness and vice? Or have men got just the same faults as we find in women?"

See also[edit]

  • Babasaheb Ambedkar, another revolutionary who fought for the rights of women and dalits.


  1. ^ Phadke, Y.D., ed. (1991). Complete Works of Mahatma Phule (in Marathi). 
  2. ^ a b Tharu, Susie J.; Ke Lalita (1991). Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present (Vol. 1). Feminist Press. p. 221. ISBN 1-55861-027-8. 
  3. ^ Delhi, University of. Indian Literature : An Introduction. Pearson Education. p. 133. ISBN 81-317-0520-X. 
  4. ^ a b Feldhaus, Anne (1998). Images of women in Maharashtrian society. SUNY Press. p. 205. ISBN 0-7914-3659-4. 
  5. ^ DeLamotte, Eugenia C.; Natania Meeker; Jean F. O'Barr (1997). "Tarabai Shinde". Women imagine change: a global anthology of women's resistance from 600 B.C.E. to present. Routledge. p. 483. ISBN 0-415-91531-7. 
  6. ^ a b Guha, Ramachandra (2011). Makers of Modern India. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 119. 
  7. ^ Roy, Anupama (24 February 2002). "On the other side of society". The Tribune. 
  8. ^ Devarajan, P. (4 February 2000). "Poignant pleas of an Indian widow". Business Line. 
  9. ^ Anagol, Padma (2005). The emergence of feminism in India, 1850–1920. Ashgate Publishing. p. 239. ISBN 0-7546-3411-6. 
  • Shinde, Tarabai. 1882. Stri purush tulana. (Translated by Maya Pandit). In S. Tharu and K. Lalita (Eds.) "Women writing in India. 600 B.C. to the present. Volume I: 600 B.C. to the early 20th century". The City University of New York City : The Feminist Press.
  • Gail Omvedt. 1995. Dalit Vision, Orient Longman
  • Chakravarti, Uma and Gill, Preeti (eds). Shadow Lives: Writings on Widowhood. Kali for Women, Delhi.
  • O'Hanlon, Rosalind. 2000. A Comparison Between Women and Men : Tarabai Shinde and the Critique of Gender Relations in Colonial India. Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2000, 144 p., ISBN 0-19-564736-X.
  • O'Hanlon, Rosalind. 1991. Issues of Widowhood: Gender and Resistance in Colonial Western India, in Douglas Haynes and Gyan Prakash (eds) "Contesting Power. Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia", Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
  • O'Hanlon, Rosalind. 1994. For the Honour of My Sister Countrywomen: Tarabai Shinde and the Critique of Gender Relations in Colonial India, Oxford University Press, Oxford.