Schooling Women: Debates on Education in the United Provinces (1854-1930)

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Preeti.

Preeti is presently a PhD research scholar at Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. As a member of the Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India”, she is working on “Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor – Between the State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century”.

This doctoral research is focusing on the school education of women (especially of poor and the underprivileged members among the Hindus, and comparison would be made with other communities) in the United Provinces between 1854 and 1930. The present work is confined to the intervening period when the formalization of girls’ education was being mapped out, institutionalized and debated as well. It will examine not only the governmental initiatives, particularly those aimed at the poor and marginalized communities, but also private and missionary efforts, early nationalist efforts, the reach of religious institutions and some of the nascent efforts made by women themselves to assist in the development and growth of women’s education more generally. Why did women’s education, and the education of the poor among them, become a concern of the colonial government at all? What were the social and economic structures which may have thwarted or stimulated the necessity for female education? Comparisons will be made between boys’ and girls’ education through debates regarding the curriculum, funding, special schools or co-education, compulsory education and the creation of demand of female education through the grant of privileges.

Against the socio-cultural environment of nineteenth and early twentieth century, this work is an attempt to explore women’s education in United Provinces. One thing that needs to be remembered is that the women being talked about here are the middle class women, as most writings on education are silent on the question of the education of rural and non-elite women. Female education was limited to middle class women during the late nineteenth century and that is the focus of scholars such as Partha Chatterjee, Tanika Sarkar, J. Devika, and Rosalind O’ Hanlon. These scholars have not explored the state of learning among the poor classes or low caste women. This work would try to explore caste and class differentiation in the field of women’s education. This can be explored through Missionary accounts of their assessment of and contribution to the field of women’s education.


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