Indian women’s role in birth control movement.

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The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
March 22, 2011, 9:43 a.m. (view history)

While on tour in 1935-1936, Sanger says that it is the Indian men who are alive to the Birth Control issue. Need some context, how much are women able to participate in politics, education, medicine, etc.

[166] Indian women doctors  faced challenges, difficulty of combining family life with professional demands, society had "little tolerance for single women." Also note sexual harassment, noting a case where a dispensary director abducted and assaulted a woman doctor, initially found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison with the admonition that women doctors should be treated with respect, the decision was overturned by the Chief Justice of the High Court who said that if women want to work in public, they cannot "expect to retain the hyper-sensitive notions of modesty which their ancestors in purdah may have possessed." Women doctors also worked in a profession dominated by European and Anglo-Indian women, received less pay, were discriminated against. Salaries were supposed to be based on credentials, but Indian women could not gain access to the same schools, especially if they did not speak English. 

[53] "By the end of World War I there were educational institutions for women in all parts of the country, and enrollments tripled at the school level and quintupled in universities." Parents could choose the type of school, the curriculum and the language it taught in. [54] "Between 1900-1920 'new women,' that is, women who were the beneficiaries of the social reforms and educational efforts of the nineteenth century, stepped forward to begin their own schools." Demand was growing. 

[60] Concludes that the increase of Indian women's education came from the Indian women themselves; schools were segregated to women, teachers were all women, and curricula aimed at gender specific socialization." Says that British rulers, Indian male reformers and educated Indian women, were the force behind it, wanted their civil servants to have educated, modern wives, not traditionalists that would split the household.

Education [102] the Indian Education Committee ruled in 1848 that there was little demand for education as a means of livelihood for women past the primary level. There was a reluctance to develop curriculum for Indian women that would prepare women for paid careers. "The wrong kind of education would lead, it was feared, to independent thinking, competition in the workforce, and finally, 'the disintegration of cultural norms'."  Despite this, programs to give Indian women Western educations developed a "new woman" who was "educated about the home and the world but firmly located in the family." These women became integral to the national movement.

[110] English women were first admitted as doctors, but "In comparison with England, [English] women in India gained admittance to medical colleges and the medical profession quite easily." [missing pages] Discusses Indian women, whose admittance was a bit harder, as both Indian and British medical men opposed it; they were often harassed or thought down on because they were working alongside men. [116] Indian women's lack of formal education handicapped them when trying to get into medical programs.