Education About Asia: Online Archives

Women in India Lessons from the Ancient Aryans Through the Early Modern Mughals

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The recovery of women’s history is an interesting story in itself. Some early scholars argued that women didn’t act in history or produce intellectual products (literature, art, philosophy, etc.) because they weren’t as capable as men. That’s long gone, and by the twentieth century apologists insisted women were of course intelligent enough, they’d just been thwarted. This is the famous “Shakespeare’s Sister” argument proposed in 1928 by Virginia Woolf in a series of Cambridge lectures. The reason, according to Woolf, that important women didn’t exist in the past is that social constraints prevented women with talent and innate superiority from succeeding. Feminist scholars the generation after Woolf uncovered proof that women had indeed been important in past cultures, yet bemoaned the fact that all texts and evidence were lost. In the last twenty years, however, tremendous energy has gone into the rediscovery of a plethora of surviving evidence (ignored by earlier writers of history) showing women’scultural impact. Like the purloined letter, it was in front of us, and we just needed to look for it.