Uncaging the Birds: the Movement to Allow Bengali Women into the Medical Profession: 1870-1880s
- Who Was the Ideal Bhadramahila?
- Origins of the Movement to Allow Bengali Women Access to Medical Colleges.
- The Breakthrough in Bengali Women's Medical Education.
When Urmimala, the progressive female protagonist of Rabindranath Tagore's celebrated novel, Dui Bon [Two Sisters] expressed her desire to go England and qualify for the medical profession, her father Raja Ram found himself in a dilemma. Being a bhadralok,1 a member of a western educated Bengal elite, complying with her wishes meant jeopardizing his social preeminence. At the same time, as an advocate of the movement for emancipation of bhadramahila or women relatives of bhadralok through education, he did not want to discourage her. Raja Ram's attitude represents the quandary of the bhadralok at the entrance of women into the medical profession. Tagore published this novel around 193os almost five decades after Bengali women had won a protracted battle to enter the medical schools.2 A few years later Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, another leading Bengali novelist, portrayed the problems that Nalini, the Brahmo protagonist of his famous novel Dotta [Fiancee] encountered when she indicated she wanted to enter the medical profession. These novels reflect the social pressures which continued to exist in the early twentieth century Bengali society on women aspiring to enter the medical profession.
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