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[Illustration: Regina Thumboo
The First M.A. from Isabella Thoburu]
Lighted to Lighten
The Hope of India
A Study of Conditions
among Women in India
By ALICE B. VAN DOREN
The Central Committee sends out this book on Indian girlhood to meet
the young women of America with their high privilege of education, that
often unrealized and unacknowledged gift of Christ.
Miss Van Doren has given emphasis in the book to the privileged young
woman of India; she shows the possibilities, and yet you will see in it
something of the black shadow cast by that religion which holds no place
for the redemption of woman. If you could see it in its hideousness
which the author can only hint at, you would say as two American college
girls said after a tour through India, "We cannot endure it. Don't take
us to another temple. We never dreamed that anything under the guise of
religion could be so vile." And somehow there has seemed to them since a
note of insincerity in poetic phrasings of Hindu writers who pass over
entirely gross forms of idolatrous faith to indulge in noble sentiments
which suggest plagiarism. A distinguished author said recently, "I can
never read Tagore again after seeing the women of India." From sacred
temple slums of South India to shambles of Kalighat it is revolting,
sickening, shameful. It is pleasanter to dwell on the beauties of
Hinduism and ignore the unprintable actualities, but if we are to help
we must feel how terrible and immediate the need is. No one can really
meet that need but the educated Indian Christian women whom God is
preparing in this day for service. They are the ones who are Lighted to
Lighten. They are the Hope of the future. Fifty years ago, after the
Civil war, the light began in the organization of Woman's Missionary
Societies. Through all the years women have gone, never very many,
sometimes not very strong, limited in various ways, but with one stern
determination, at any cost "to save some."
Now at the close of your war, young women of America, a new era is
beginning in which you are called to take your part. You will not be the
pioneers. The trail is blazed. It has been proven that Indian girls can
be educated, their minds are keen and eager, they are Christian, many of
them, in a sense which girls of America cannot comprehend. Their task is
infinitely greater than yours. If they fail, the redemption of Indian
womanhood will not be realized, and so we see them taking as the college
emblem, not the beautiful, decorated brass lamp of the palace, but the
common, little clay lamp of the poorest home and going out with the
flickering flame to lighten the deep darkness of their land. College
girls in America sometimes wear their degree as a decoration. To these
girls it is equipment, armor, weapons, for the tearing down of
strongholds. These girls must be leaders. They cannot escape the
Until now the undertaking has seemed hopeless. What could a few foreign
women do among those millions? But the great, silent revolution has
begun Eastern women are seeking self-determination as nations seek it.
They are asserting rights to soul and mind and body. They refuse to be
chattels, and going out to release these millions come these little
groups of Christian college girls who are to furnish leadership. Have
we no part? Yes, as allies we are needed as never before. Unless from
the faculties of our colleges, as well as from our student volunteers
adequate aid is sent at once these little groups may fail. This is your
"moral equivalent of war." To go and help them in this Day which is
their Day of Decision requires vision, devotion, a glorious giving of
life which will count just in proportion as the need is immediate, the
battle in doubt, failure possible. Mission Boards must go haltingly for
lack of women and of funds until groups of women from colleges in
America hear the call of Christ and follow Him, for God Himself will not
do this work alone. He has chosen that it shall be done through you.
From our colleges and medical schools recruits and funds must be sent
until those who are in the new colleges over there are trained and ready
to win India for their Master. To bring them over here for training is
not altogether good. There are dangers in this our age of jazz. It is
not good to send out very young girls to a far country during the
formative years lest a strange language and customs and a new
civilization should unfit them to go back to their "Main Street" and
adjust themselves. The Indian Colleges are best for the undergraduate
Indian girl and are the only ones for the great majority. We must make
these the best possible, truly Christian in their teaching and
standards, in impressions on the lives of students as well as in their
mission to the people of India.
This book is for study in our church societies of older girls and of
women, and very especially for girls in the colleges, who should
consider this as one of the greatest fields for service in the world
to-day. We preach internationalism. Let our churches and colleges
Mrs. HENRY W. PEABODY
Miss ALICE M. KYLE
Mrs. FRANK MASON NORTH
Miss GERTRUDE SCHULTZ
Miss O.H. LAWRENCE
MRS. A.V. POHLMAN
Miss EMILY TILLOTSON
NOTE: The Central Committee recommends Dr. Fleming's book, "Building
with India", for advanced study classes and groups who wish really to
_study_. For Women's societies wishing programs for meetings we think
Miss Van Doren's book better as it is less difficult and more concrete.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
I YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY
II AT SCHOOL
A HIGH SCHOOL
III THE GARDEN OF HID TREASURE
IV AN INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE
V SENT FORTH TO HEAL
VI WOMEN WHO DO THINGS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
What Will Life Bring to Her?
Meenachi of Madura
Married to the God
Will Life Be Kind to Her?
A Temple in South India
The Sort of Home that Arul Knew
Priests of the Hindu Temple
Tamil Girls Preparing for College
The Village of the Seven Palms
Basketball at Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow
Biology Class at Lucknow College
A Social Service Group-Lucknow College
Girls of All Castes Meet on Common Ground
Street Scenes in Madras
Scenes at Madras College
At Work and Play
The New Dormitory at Madras College
The Old India
First Building at New Medical School, Vellore
Dr. Scudder and the Medical Students at Vellore
Where God is a Stone Image--Where God is Love
A Medical Student in Vellore
Freshman Class at Vellore-Latest Arrivals at Vellore
Dora Mohini Maya Das
Mrs. Paul Appasamy
Putting Spices in Baby's Milk
Baby on Scales
A Representative of India's Womanhood
These chapters are written with no claim to their being an accurate
representation of life in all India. That India is a continent rather
than a country is a statement so often repeated that it has become
trite. To understand the details of girl-life in all parts of this
continent would require a variety of experience which the present
writer cannot claim. This book is written frankly from the standpoint of
one who has spent fifteen years in the South, and known the North only
from brief tours and the acquaintance which reading can give.
For help in advice and criticism thanks are due to friends too numerous
to name; especial mention, however, should be made of the kindness of
three Indian critics who have read the manuscript: Miss Maya Das of the
Y.W.C.A., Calcutta, Mr. Chandy of Bangalore, and Mr. Athiseshiah of
Voorhees College, Vellore.
"If there were no Christian College in India, the foreshadowings of a
great To-morrow would demand its creation. It is needed:
(1) for training native leadership in this age when all India is
demanding Indian leadership along all lines, and is impatient of foreign
(2) for developing Christian workers for the multitudes in India who are
turning to Christianity and need care and shepherding in schools and in
all phases of daily life.
(3) for the education of those who will be the homemakers of their
country, that the stamp of Christianity may be upon the minds and lives
of mothers and wives in this New India.
(4) for moralizing the social life in India which otherwise would have
the bias of an increasingly disproportionate educated male population.
(5) for demonstrating the uplifting influence of Christ upon that sex
which has been so disastrously ignored and repressed in India, and for
proving that the best is none too good for Indian womanhood. 'Better
women' are the strongest factor in the development of a Better India.
(6) for definitely distributing the ideals of Christian womanhood to all
parts of Southern Asia from which the College draws its students.
Personal witness to the value of Christian education for women is a real
(7) for training women to take their part in the new national life of
awakened India. This training must be by contact with lives already
devoted to Christ, more than by precept, for 'character is caught, not
(8) for meeting the needs of the more educated classes of India, as the
evangelistic and other parts of mission work minister specifically to
the needs of the masses."
(9) In furnishing pre-medical training for the hundreds of women who
must be educated to follow in the footsteps of the Great Physician.
To say that the world is one is to-day's commonplace. What causes its
new solidarity? What but the countless hands that reach across its
shores and its Seven Seas, hands that devastate and hands that heal!
There are the long fingers of the cable and telegraph that pry through
earth's hidden places, gathering choice bits of international gossip and
handing them out to all the breakfast tables of the Great Neighborhood.
There are the swift fingers of transcontinental train and ocean liner,
pushing the dweller from the West into the Far East, the man from the
prairie into the desert. There are the devastating fingers of war that
first fashion and then carry infernal machines and spread them broadcast
over towns and ships and fertile fields. Thank God, there are also hands
of kindness that dispense healing medicines, that scatter schoolbooks
among untaught children and the Word of God in all parts of earth's
neighborhood. And, lastly, there are hands that seem never to leave the
house roof and the village street, yet gain the power of the long reach
and set thousands of candles alight across the world.
"Why don't you let them alone? Their religion is good enough for them,"
was the classic comment of the armchair critic of a generation ago. Time
has answered it. Nothing in to-day's world ever lets anything else
alone. We read the morning paper in terms of continents. To the League
of Nations China and Chile are concerns as intimate as Upper Silesia. To
the Third Internationale the obscure passes of Afghanistan are a near
frontier. Suffrage and prohibition are echoed in the streets of Poona
and in the councils of Delhi. Labor strikes in West Virginia and Wales
produce reactions in the cotton mills of Madras. And the American girl
in high school, in college, in business, in society, in a profession,
is producing her double under tropic suns, in far-off streets where
speech and dress and manners are strange, but the heart of life is one.
That time is past; we cannot let them alone; we can only choose what
shall be the shape and fashioning done by hands that reach across the
YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY
"Once upon a Time."
"Once upon a time," men and women dwelt in caves and cliffs and
fashioned curious implements from the stones of the earth and painted
crude pictures upon the walls of their rock dwellings. Archaeologists
find such traces in England and along the river valleys of France, among
the sands of Egyptian deserts and in India, where armor heads, ancient
pottery, and cromlechs mark the passing of a long forgotten race. Thus
India claims her place in the universal childhood of the world.
The Brown-skinned Tribes.
"Once upon a time," when the Stone Men had passed, a strange, new
civilization is thought to have girdled the earth, passing probably in a
"brown belt" from Mediterranean lands across India to the Pacific world
and the Americas. Its sign was the curious symbol of the Swastika; its
passwords certain primitive customs common to all these lands. Its
probable Indian representatives are known to-day as Dravidians--the
brown-skinned people still dominating South Indian life, whose exact
place in the family of races puzzles every anthropologist. It was then
that civilization was first walking up and down the great river valleys
of the Old World. While the first pyramids were a-building beside the
long green ribbon of the Nile and the star-gazers of Mesopotamia were
reading future events from her towers of sun-dried bricks, Dravidian
tribes were cultivating the rich mud of the Ganges valley, a
slow-changing race. Did the lonely traveler, I wonder, troll the same
air then as now to ward away evil spirits from the star-lit road? Did
the Dravidian maiden do her sleek hair in the same knot at the nape of
her brown neck, and poise the earthen pot with the same grace on her
daily pilgrimage to the river?
The Aryan Brother.
"Once upon a time" Abraham pitched his tent beneath the oaks of Mamre,
and Moses shepherded his father-in-law's flocks at "the back side of the
desert." It was then that down through the grim passes of the Himalayas,
where now the British regiments convoy caravans and guard the outposts
of Empire, a people of fair skin and strange speech migrated southward
to the Land of the Five Rivers and the fat plains of the Ganges. Aryan
even as we, the Brahman entered India, singing hymns to the sun and the
dawn, bringing with him the stately Sanskrit speech, new lore of priest
and shrine, new pride of race that was to cleave society into those
horizontal strata that persist to-day in the caste system. Thus through
successions of Stone-Age men, Dravidian tribes, and Aryan invaders,
India stretches her roots deep into the past. But while there were
"Old, unhappy, far-off things
And battles long ago,"
where were we? The superior Anglo-Saxon who speaks complacently of "the
native" forgets that during that same "once upon a time" when
civilization was old in India, his ancestors, clad in deer skin and blue
paint, were stalking the forests of Europe for food.
Gifts to the West.
Nor did these old civilizations forbear to reach hands across the sea
and share with the young and lusty West the fruits of their knowledge.
On a May morning, as skillful carriers swing you up to the heights of the
South India hills, there is a sudden sound reminiscent of the home
barnyard, a scurry of wings across the path, and a gleam of glossy
plumage; Mr. Jungle Cock has been disturbed in his morning meal. Did you
know that from his ancestors are descended in direct lineage all the
Plymouth Rocks and the White Leghorns of the poultry yard, all the Buff
Orpingtons that win gold medals at poultry shows? Other food stuffs
India originated and shared. Sugar and rice were delicacies from her
fields carried over Roman roads to please the palates of the Caesars.
Traditions of Womanhood.
Besides these contributions to the world's pantry, there were gifts of
the mind and spirit. To those days of long ago modern India looks back
as to a golden age, for she was then in the forefront of civilization,
passing out her gifts with a generous hand. Of that ancient heritage not
the least part is the tradition of womanhood,--a heritage trampled in
the dust of later ages, its restoration only now beginning through that
liberty in Christ which sets free the woman of the West and of the East.
Much might be written on the place of the Indian woman in folk-lore epic
and drama. Helen of Troy and Dido of Carthage pale into common
adventuresses when placed beside the quiet courage and utter
self-abnegation of such Indian heroines as Sita and Damayanti.
The story of Rama and Sita is the Odyssey of the East, crooned by
grandmothers over the evening fires; sung by wandering minstrels under
the shade of the mango grove; trolled by travelers jogging in bullock
carts along empty moonlit roads. Sita's devotion is a household word to
many a woman-child of India. Little Lakshmi follows the adventures of
the loved heroine as she shares Rama's unselfish renunciation of the
throne and exile to the forest with its alarms of wild beasts and wild
men. She thrills with fear at Sita's abduction by the hideous giant,
Ravana, and the wild journey through the air and across the sea to the
Ceylon castle. She weeps with Rama's despair, and again laughs with glee
at the antics of his monkey army from the south country, as they build
their bridge of stones across the Ceylon straits where now-a-days
British engineers have followed in their simian track and train and
ferry carry the casual traveler across the gaps jumped by the monkey
king and his tribe. Sita's sore temptations in the palace of her
conqueror and her steadfast loyalty until at last her husband comes
victorious--they are part of the heritage of a million Lakshmis all up
and down the length of India.
[Illustration: WHAT WILL LIFE BRING TO HER?]
Of the loves of Nala and Damayanti it is difficult to write in few
words. From the opening scene where the golden-winged swans carry Nala's
words of love to Damayanti in the garden, sporting at sunset with her
maidens, the old tale moves on with beauty and with pathos. The
Swayamvara, or Self Choice, harks back to the time when the Indian
princess might herself choose among her suitors. Gods and men compete
for Damayanti's hand among scenes as bright and stately as the lists of
King Arthur's Court, until the princess, choosing her human lover,
throws about his neck the garland that declares her choice. Happy years
follow, and the birth of children. Then the scene changes to exile and
desertion. Through it all moves the heroine, sharing her one garment
with her unworthy lord, "thin and pale and travel-stained, with hair
covered in dust," yet never faltering until her husband, sane and
repentant, is restored to home and children and throne.
So the ancient folk-lore goes on, in epic and in drama, with the woman
ever the heroine of the tale. True it is that her virtues are limited;
obedience, chastity, and an unlimited capacity for suffering largely sum
them up. They would scarcely satisfy the ambitions of the new woman of
to-day; yet some among us might do well to pay them reverence.
Those were the high days of Indian womanhood. Then, as the centuries
passed, there came slow eclipse. Lawgivers like Manu proclaimed the
essential impurity of a woman's heart; codes and customs began to bind
her with chains easy to forge and hard to break. Later followed the
catastrophe that completed the change. The Himalayan gateways opened
once more and through them swarmed a new race of invaders, passing out
of those barren plains of Central Asia that have been ever the breeding
grounds of nations and swooping upon India's treasures. In one hand the
green flag of the Prophet, in the other the sword, these followers of
Muhammad sealed for a millennium the end of woman's high estate.
All was not lost without a mighty struggle. From those days come the
tales of Rajput chivalry--tales that might have been sung by the
troubadours of France. Rajput maidens of noble blood scorned the throne
of Muslim conquerors. Litters supposed to carry captive women poured out
warriors armed to the teeth. Men and women in saffron robes and bridal
garments mounted the great funeral pyre, and when the conquering
Allah-ud-din entered the silent city of Chitore he found no resistance
and no captives, for no one living was left from the great Sacrifice of
After that came an end. Everywhere the Muhammadan conqueror desired many
wives; in a far and alien land his own womankind were few. Again and
again the ordinary Hindu householder, lacking the desperate courage of
the Rajput, stood by helpless, like the Armenian of to-day, while his
wife and daughter were carried off from before his eyes, to increase the
harem of his ruler. Small wonder that seclusion became the order of the
day--a woman would better spend her life behind the purdah of her own
home than be added to the zenana of her conqueror. Later when the throes
of conquest were over and Hindu women once more ventured forth to a
wedding or a festival, small wonder that they copied the manners of
their masters, and to escape familiarity and insult became as like as
possible to women of the conquering race. Thus the use of the veil
At that beginning we do not wonder; what makes us marvel is that a
repressing custom became so strong that, even after a century and a half
of British rule, all over North India and among some conservative
families of the South seclusion and the veil still persist. Walk the
streets of a great commercial town like Calcutta, and you find it a city
of men. An occasional Parsee lady, now and then an Indian Christian,
here and there women of the cooly class whose lowly station has saved
their freedom--otherwise womankind seems not to exist.
The high hour of Indian womanhood had passed, not to return until
brought back by the power of Christ, in whose kingdom there is "neither
male nor female, but all are one." Yet as the afterglow flames up with a
transient glory after the swift sunset, so in the gathering darkness of
Muhammadan domination we see the brightness of two remarkable women.
There was Nur Jahan, the "Light of the World," wife of the dissolute
Jahangir. Never forgetful, it would seem, of a childish adventure when
the little Nur Jahan in temper and pride set free his two pet doves,
twenty years later the Mughal Emperor won her from her soldier husband
by those same swift methods that David employed to gain the wife of
Uriah, the Hittite.
And when Nur Jahan became queen she was ruler indeed, "the one
overmastering influence in his life." From that time on we see her,
restraining her husband from his self-indulgent habits, improving his
administration, crossing flooded rivers and leading attacks on
elephants to save him from captivity; "a beautiful queen, beautifully
dressed, clever beyond compare, contriving and scheming, plotting,
planning, shielding and saving, doing all things for the man hidden in
the pampered, drink-sodden carcass of the king; the man who, for her at
any rate, always had a heart." Think of Nur Jahan's descendants, hidden
in the zenanas of India. When their powers, age-repressed, are set free
by Christian education, what will it mean for the future of their nation?
[Illustration: MEENACHI OF MADURA
The Average Girl, a Bride at Twelve]
Then there came the lady of the Taj, Mumtaz Mahal, beloved of Shah
Jahan, the Master Builder. We know less of her history, less of the
secret of her charm, only that she died in giving birth to her
thirteenth child, and that for all those years of married life she had
held her husband's adoration. For twenty-two succeeding years he spent
his leisure in collecting precious things from every part of his world
that there might be lacking no adornment to the most exquisite tomb ever
raised. And when it was finished--rare commentary on the contradiction
of Mughal character--the architect was blinded that he might never
produce its like again.
All that was a part of yesterday--a story of rise and fall; of woman's
repression, with outbursts of greatness; of countless treasures of
talent and possibilities unrecognized and undeveloped, hidden behind the
doors of Indian zenanas. What of to-day?
TO-DAY: The Average Girl.
Meenachi of Madura, if she could become articulate, might tell us
something of the life of the average girl to-day. Being average, she
belongs neither to the exclusive streets of the Brahman, nor to the
hovels of the untouchable outcastes, but to the area of the great middle
class which is in India as everywhere the backbone of society.
Meenachi's father is a weaver of the far-famed Madura muslins with their
gold thread border. Her earliest childhood memory is the quiet weavers'
street where the afternoon sun glints under the tamarind trees and,
striking the long looms set in the open air, brings out the blue and
mauve, the deep crimson and purple and gold of the weaving.
There were rollicking babyhood days when Meenachi, clad only in the
olive of her satin skin with a silver fig leaf and a bead necklace for
adornment, wandered in and out the house and about the looms at will.
With added years came the burden of clothing, much resented by the
wearer, but accepted with philosophic submission, as harder things would
be later on. Toys are few and simple. The palmyra rattle is exchanged
for the stiff wooden doll, painted in gaudy colors, and the collection
of tiny vessels in which sand and stones and seeds provide the
equivalent of mud pies in repasts of imaginary rice and curry. Household
duties begin also. Meenachi at the age of six grasps her small bundle of
broom-grass and sweeps each morning her allotted section of verandah.
Soon she is helping to polish the brass cooking pots and to follow her
mother and older sisters, earthen waterpot on hip, on their morning and
evening pilgrimages to the river.
Being only an average girl, Meenachi will never go to school. There are
ninety and nine of these "average" unschooled girls to the one "above
the average" to whom education offers its outlet for the questing
spirit. She looks with curiosity at the books her brother brings home
from high school, but the strange, black marks which cover their pages
mean nothing to her. Not for her the release into broad spaces that
comes only through the written word. For, mark you, to the illiterate
life means only those circumscribed experiences that come within the
range of one's own sight and touch and hearing. "What I have seen, what
I have heard, what I have felt"--there experience ends. From personal
unhappiness there is no escape into the world current.
Meenachi is twelve and the freedom of the long street is hers no more.
Yellow chrysanthemums in her glossy hair, a special diet of milk and
curds and sweet cakes fried in ghee, and the outspoken congratulations
of relatives, male and female, mark her entrance into the estate of
womanhood. What the West hides, the East delights to reveal.
Now follows the swift sequel of marriage. The husband, of just the right
degree of relationship, has long been chosen. The family exchequer is
drained to the dregs to provide the heavy dowry, the burdensome
expenditure for wedding feast and jewels, and the presentation of
numerous wedding garments to equally numerous and expectant relatives.
Meenachi is carried away by the splendor of new clothes and jewels and
processions, and the general _tamash_ of the occasion. Has she not the
handsomest bridegroom and the most expensive _trousseau,_ of this
marriage month? Is she not the envy of all her former playmates? Only
now and then comes a strange feeling of loneliness when she thinks of
leaving the dear, familiar roof the narrow street with its tamarind
trees and many colored looms. The mother-in-law's house is a hundred
miles away, and the mother-in-law's face is strange.
Will Meenachi be sad or happy? The answer is complex and hard to find,
for it depends on many contingencies. The husband--what will he be? He
is not of Meenachi's choosing. Did she choose her father and mother, and
the house in which she was born? Were they not chosen for her, "written
upon her forehead" by her _Karma_, her inscrutable fate? Her husband has
been chosen; let her make the best of the choice.
Will she be happy? The future years shall make answer by many things.
Will she bear sons to her husband? If so, will her young body have
strength for the pains of childbirth and the torturings of ignorant and
brutal midwives? Will her _Karma_ spare to her the life of husband and
children? In India sudden death is never far; pestilence walks in
darkness and destruction wastes at noon day. The fear of disease, the
fear of demons, the fear of death will be never far away; for these
fears there will be none to say, "Be not afraid."
So Meenachi, the bride, passes out into the unknown of life, and later
into the greater unknown of death. No one has taught her to say in the
valley of the shadow, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." The
terrors of life are with her, but its consolations are not hers.
[Illustration: MARRIED TO THE GOD
A Little Temple Girl]
Of widowhood I shall say little. Since the ancient days of _suttee_ when
the wife mounted her husband's funeral pyre volumes have been written on
the lot of the Indian widow. To-day in some cases the power of
Christianity has awakened the spirit of social reform and the rigors of
widowhood are lessened. Among the majority the old remains. In general,
the higher you rise in the social scale, the sterner the conventions and
fashions of widowhood become.
In Madras you may visit a Widow's Home, where through the wise efforts
of a large-hearted woman in the Educational Department of Government
more than a hundred Brahman girl-widows live the life of a normal
schoolgirl. No fastings, no shaven heads, no lack of pretty clothes or
jewels mark them off from the rest of womanhood. Schools and colleges
open their doors and professional life as teacher or doctor offers hope
of human contact and interest for these to whom husband and child and
home are forever forbidden. In all India you may find a very few such
institutions, but "what are these among so many?" The millions of
repressed child widows still go on.
Wives of the Idol.
Worse is the fate of those whose _Karma_ condemns them to a life of
religious prostitution. Perhaps the first-born son of the family lies
near to death. The parents vow a frantic vow to the deity of the local
temple. "Save our son's life, O Govinda; our youngest daughter shall be
dedicated to thy service." The son recovers, the vow must be fulfilled,
and bright-eyed, laughing Lakshmi, aged eight, is led to the temple, put
through the mockery of a ceremony of marriage to the black and misshapen
image in the inmost shrine, and thenceforth trained to a religious
service of nameless infamy.
The story of Hinduism holds the history of some devout seekers after
God, of sincere aspiration, in some cases of beautiful thought and life.
This deepest blot is acknowledged and condemned by its better members.
Yet in countless temples, under the brightness of the Indian sun, the
iniquity, protected by vested interests, goes on and no hand is lifted
to stay. Suppose each American church to shelter its own house of
prostitution, its forces recruited from the young girls of the
congregation, their services at the disposal of its worshippers. The
thought is too black for utterance; yet just so in the life of India has
the service of the gods been prostituted to the lusts of men.
The achievements of Christianity in India are not confined to the four
million who constitute the community that have followed the new Way.
Perhaps even greater has been the reaction it has excited in the ranks
of Hinduism among those who would repudiate the name of Christian. Chief
among the abuses of Hinduism to be attacked has been the traditional
attitude toward woman. Child marriage and compulsory widowhood are
condemned by every social reformer up and down the length of India. The
battle is fought not only for women, but by them also. Agitation for
the suffrage has been carried on in India's chief cities. In Poona not
long since the educated women of the city, Hindu, Muhammadan, and
Christian, joined in a procession with banners, demanding compulsory
education for girls.
Of women not Christian, but freed from ancient bonds by this reflex
action of Christian thought, perhaps the most eminent example is Mrs.
Sarojini Naidu. Of Brahman birth, but English education, she dared to
resist the will of her family and the tradition of her caste and marry a
man of less than Brahman extraction. Now as a writer of distinction
second only to Tagore she is known to Europe as well as to India. In her
own country she is perhaps loved best for her intense patriotism, and is
the best known woman connected with the National Movement.
Chiefly, however, it is among the Christian community that woman's
freedom has become a fact. Women such as Mrs. Naidu exist, but they are
few. Now and then one reads of a case of widow-remarriage successfully
achieved. Too often, however, the Hindu reformer, however well-meaning
and sincere, talks out his reformation in words rather than deeds. He
lacks the support of Christian public opinion; he lacks also the
vitalizing power of a personal Christian experience. It is easy to speak
in public on the evils of early marriage; he speaks and the audience
applauds. He knows too well that in the applauding audience there is not
a man whose son will marry his daughter if she passes the age of
twelve. So the ardent reformer talks on, with the abandon of the darky
preacher who exhorted his audience "Do as I say and not as I do"; and
hopes that in some future incarnation life will be kinder, and he may be
able to carry out the excellent practices he really desires.
A Hindu girl of high family was allowed to go to college. There being
then no women's college in her part of India, she entered a Government
University in a large city, where there were a few other women students.
Western standards of freedom prevailed and were accepted by men and
women. Rukkubai shared in social as well as academic life. With a strong
arm and a steady eye, she distinguished herself at tennis and badminton,
and came even to play in mixed doubles, a mark of the most "advanced"
social views to be found in India.
After college came marriage to a man connected with the family of a well
known rajah. The husband was not only the holder of a University degree
similar to her own, but a zealous social reformer, eloquent in his
advocacy of women's freedom. Life promised well for Rukkubai. A year or
two later a friend visited her behind the purdah, with the doors of the
world shut in her face. The zeal of the reforming husband could not
stand against the petty persecutions of the older women of the family.
"I wish," said Rukkubai, "that I had never known freedom. Now I have
[Illustration: WILL LIFE BE KIND TO HER?]
Yet not all reformers are such. There are an increasing number whose
deeds keep pace with their words. Such may be found among the members of
The Servants of India Society, who spend part of the year in social
studies; the remainder in carrying to ignorant people the message they
Such is the heritage of the Hindu woman of ancient freedom; centuries
when traditions of repression have gripped with ever-tightening hold;
to-day a new ferment in the blood, a new striving toward purposes half
Of to-morrow, who can say? The future is hidden, but the chapters that
follow may perhaps serve to bring us into touch with a few of the many
forces that are helping to shape the day that shall be.
[Footnote 1: History of India, E.W. Thompson. Christian Literature
Society, London and Madras, pp. 11-12.]
[Footnote 2: Outline of History, H.G. Wells. Vol. I, pp. 146-8.]
[Footnote 3: Outline of History, H.G. Wells, Vol. I, pp. 196-199.]
[Footnote 4: Outline of History, H.G. Wells, Vol. I, pp. 189-190.]
[Footnote 5: Ancient Times, Breasted, pp. 658-9.]
[Footnote 6: Code of Manu, Book 9, quoted Lux Christi, Mason, p. 14.]
[Footnote 7: India through the Ages, Florence Annie Steele, Routledge,
pp. 95-104, 116-18.]
[Footnote 8: India through the Ages, pp. 190-200]
Hindu or Christian.
In the last chapter we have spoken of the Hindu girl as yet untouched by
Christianity, save as such influence may have filtered through into the
general life of the nation. We have had vague glimpses of her social
inheritance, with its traditions of an ancient and honorable estate of
womanhood; of the limitations of her life to-day; of her half-formed
aspirations for the future.
Of education as such nothing has been said. As we turn now from home to
school life, we shall turn also from the Hindu community to the
Christian. This does not mean that none but Christian girls go to
school. In all the larger and more advanced cities and in some towns you
will find Government schools for Hindu girls as well as those carried on
by private enterprise, some of them of great efficiency. Yet this
deliberate turning to the school life of the Christian community is not
so arbitrary as it seems.
In the first place, the proportion of literacy among Christian women is
far higher than among the Hindu and Muhammadan communities. Again,
because a large proportion of Christians have come from the depressed
classes, the "submerged tenth," ground for uncounted centuries under the
heel of the caste system, their education is also a study in social
uplift, one of the biggest sociological laboratory experiments to be
found anywhere on earth. And, lastly, it is through Christian schools
that the girls and women of America have reached out hands across the
sea and gripped their sisters of the East.
The School under the Palm Trees.
"And the dawn comes up like thunder Outer China 'cross the Bay." Far
from China and far inland from the Bay is this South Indian village, but
the dawn flashes up with the same amazing swiftness. Life's daily
resurrection proceeds rapidly in the Village of the Seven Palms. Flocks
of crows are swarming in from their roosting place in the palmyra jungle
beside the dry sand river; the cattle are strolling out from behind
various enclosures where they share the family shelter; all around is
the whirr of bird and insect as the teeming life of the tropics wakes to
greet "my lord Sun."
Under the thatch of each mud-walled hovel of the outcaste village there
is the same stir of the returning day. Sheeted corpses stretched on the
floor suddenly come to life and the babel of village gossip begins.
In the house at the far end of the street, Arul is first on her feet,
first to rub the sleep from her eyes. There is no ceremony of dressing,
no privacy in which to conduct it if there were. Arul rises in the same
scant garment in which she slept, snatches up the pot of unglazed clay
that stands beside the door, poises it lightly on her hip, and runs
singing to the village well, where each house has its representative
waiting for the morning supply. There is the plash of dripping water,
the creak of wheel and straining rope, and the chatter of girl voices.
[Illustration: A TEMPLE IN SOUTH INDIA]
The well is also the place for making one's morning toilet. Arul dashes
the cold water over her face, hands, and feet. No soap is required, no
towel--the sun is shining and will soon dry everything in sight. Next
comes the tooth-brushing act, when a smooth stick takes the place of a
brush, and "Kolynos" or "Colgate" is replaced by a dab of powdered
charcoal. Arul combs her hair only for life's great events, such as a
wedding or a festival, and changes her clothes so seldom that it is
better form not to mention it.
Breakfast is equally simple,--and the "simple life" at close range is
apt to lose many of its charms. In the corner of the one windowless
room that serves for all domestic purposes stands the earthen pot of
black gruel. It is made from the _ragi_, little, hard, round seeds that
resemble more than anything else the rape seed fed to a canary. It looks
a sufficiently unappetizing breakfast, but contentment abounds because
the pot is full, and that happens only when rains are abundant and
seasons prosperous. The Russian peasant and his black bread, the Indian
peasant and his black gruel--dark symbols these of the world's hunger
There is no sitting down to share even this simple meal, no conception
of eating as a social event, a family sacrament. The father, as lord and
master, must be served first; then the children seize the one or two
cups by turn, and last of all comes Mother. Arul gulps her breakfast
standing and then dashes into the street. She is one of the village herd
girls; the sun is up and shining hot, and the cattle and goats are
jostling one another in their impatience to be off for the day.
The dry season is on and all the upland pastures are scorched and brown.
A mile away is the empty bed of the great tank. A South Indian tank in
our parlance would be an artificial lake. A strong earth wall, planted
with palmyras, encircles its lower slope. The upper lies open to receive
surface water, as well as the channel for the river that runs full
during the monsoon months. During the "rains" the country is full of
water, blue and sparkling. Now the water is gone, the crops are
ripening, and in the clay tank bottom the cattle spend their days
searching for the last blades of grass.
"Watch the cows well, Little Brother," calls Arul, as she hurries back
on the narrow path that winds between boulders and thickets of prickly
pear cactus. Green parrots are screaming in the tamarind trees and
overhead a white-throated Brahmany kite wheels motionless in the vivid
blue. The sun is blazing now, but Arul runs unheeding. It is time for
school--she knows it by the sun-clock in the sky. "Female education," as
the Indian loves to call it, is not yet fashionable in the Village of
the Seven Palms. With twenty-five boys there are only three girls who
frequent its halls of learning. Of the three Arul is one. Her father,
lately baptized, knows but little of what Christ's religion means, but
the few facts he has grasped are written deeply in his simple mind and
show life-results. One of these ideas is that the way out and up is
through the gate of Christian education. And so it is that Arul comes to
school. She is but eight, yet with a mouth to feed and a body to clothe,
and the rice pot often empty, the halving of her daily wage means
self-denial to all the family. So it is that Arul, instead of herding
cattle all day, runs swiftly back to the one-roomed schoolhouse under
the cocoanuts and arrives not more than half an hour late.
The schoolroom is so primitive that you would hardly recognize it as
such. Light and air and space are all too little. There are no desks or
even benches. A small, wooden blackboard and the teacher's table and
rickety chair are all that it can boast in the way of equipment. The
only interesting thing in sight is the children themselves, rows of them
on the floor, writing letters in the sand. Unwashed they are, uncombed
and almost unclothed, but with all the witchery of childhood in their
eyes. In that bare room lies the possibility of transforming the life of
the Village of the Seven Palms.
But the teacher is innocent of the ways of modern pedagogy, and deep and
complicated are the snares of the Tamil alphabet with its two hundred
and sixteen elusive characters. Baffling, too, are the mysteries of
number combination. "If six mangoes cost three annas, how much will one
mango cost?" Arul never had an anna of her own, how should she know? The
teachers bamboo falls on her hard, little hand, and two hot tears run
down and drop on the cracked slate. The way to learning is long and
beset with as many thorns as the crooked path through the prickly pear
cactus. Bible stories are happier. Arul can tell you how the Shepherds
sang and all about the little boy who gave his own rice cakes and dried
fish, to help Jesus feed hungry people. She has been hungry so often
that that story seems real.
The years pass over Arul's head, leaving her a little taller, a little
fleeter of foot as she hurries back from the pasture, a little wiser in
the ways of God and men. Still her father holds out against the
inducements of child labor. Arul shall go to school as long as there is
anything left for her to learn. And into Arul's eyes there has come the
gleam of a great ambition. She will leave the Village of the Seven Palms
and go into the wide world. The most spacious existence she knows of is
represented by the Girls' Boarding School in the town twenty miles away.
To enter that school, to study, to become a teacher perhaps--but beyond
that the wings of Arul's imagination have not yet learned to soar. The
meaning of service for Christ and India, the opportunity of educated
womanhood, such ideas have not yet entered Arul's vocabulary. She will
learn them in the days to come.
Countless villages of the Seven Palms; countless schools badly equipped
and poorly taught; countless Aruls--feeling within them dim gropings,
half-formed ambitions. Somewhere in America there are girls trained in
rural education and longing for the chance for research and original
work in a big, untried field. What a chance for getting together the
girl and the task!
[Illustration: THE SORT OF HOME THAT ARUL KNEW IN THE VILLAGE OF SEVEN
A HIGH SCHOOL
Where the Girls Come from.
If the girls of India could pass you in long procession, you would need
to count up to one hundred before you found one who had had Arul's
opportunity of learning just to read and write. Infinitely smaller is
the proportion of those who go into secondary schools. American women
have been responsible for founding, financing, and teaching many of the
Girls' High Schools that exist. They are of various sorts. Some have new
and up-to-date plants, modelled on satisfactory types of American
buildings. Others are muddling along with old-time, out-grown
schoolrooms, spilling over into thatched sheds, and longing for the day
when the spiritual structure they are erecting will be expressed in a
suitable material form. Schools vary also as to social standing,
discipline, and ideals; yet there are common features and problems, and
one may be more or less typical of all. Most include under one
organization everything from kindergarten to senior high school, so that
the school is really a big family of one or two or four hundred, as the
case may be.
The girls come from many grades of Indian life. The great majority are
Christians, for few Hindu parents are yet sufficiently "advanced" to
desire a high school education for their daughters, and those who do
usually send their girls to a Government school where caste regulations
will be observed and where there will be no religious teaching.
Some of the Christian girls come from origins as crude as that of Arul.
To such the simplest elements of hygiene are unknown, and cleanly and
decent living is the first and hardest lesson to be learned. Others are
orphans, waifs, and strays cast up from the currents of village life.
Uncared for, undernourished, with memories of a tragic childhood behind
them, it is sometimes an impossible task to turn these little, old women
back into normal children. But the largest number are children of
teachers and catechists, pastors, and even college professors, who come
from middle class homes, with a greater or less collection of Christian
habits and ideals. With all these is a small scattering of high caste
Hindu girls, the children of exceptionally liberal parents. The
resulting school community is a wonderful example of pure democracy.
Ignorant village girls learn more from the "public opinion" of their
better trained schoolmates than from any amount of formal discipline;
while daughters of educated families share their inheritance and come
to realize a little of the need of India's illiterate masses. So school
life becomes an experiment in Christian democracy, where a girl counts
only for what she can do and be; where each member contributes something
to the life of the group and receives something from it.
What the Girls Study.
Schools are schools the world over, and the agonies of the three R's are
common to children in whatever tongue they learn. An Indian kindergarten
is not so different from an American, except for language and local
color. Equipment is far simpler and less expensive, but there is the
same spontaneity, the same joy of living; laughter and play have the
same sound in Tamil as in English. Besides, Indian kindergartens produce
some charming materials all their own--shiny black tamarind seeds, piles
of colored rice, and palm leaves that braid into baby rattles and fans.
So, too, a high school course is much the same even in India. The
right-angled triangle still has an hypotenuse, and quadratics do not
simplify with distance, while Tamil classics throw Vergil and Cicero
into the shade. The fact that high school work is all carried on in
English is the biggest stumbling block in the Indian schoolgirl's road
to learning. What would the American girl think of going through a
history recitation in Russian, writing chemistry equations in French,
or demonstrating a geometry proposition in Spanish? Some day Indian
education may be conducted in its own vernaculars; to-day there are
neither the necessary text-books, nor the vocabulary to express
scientific thought. As yet, and probably for many years to come, the
English language is the key that unlocks the House of Learning to the
schoolgirl. Indian classics she has and they are well worth knowing; but
even Shakespeare and Milton would hardly console the American girl for
the loss of all her story books, from "Little Women" and "Pollyanna"
up--or down--to the modern novel. To understand English sufficiently to
write and speak and even think in it is the big job of the High School.
It is only the picked few who attain unto it; those few are possessed of
brains and perseverance enough to become the leaders of the next
It is not unusual for an Indian girl to spend ten or twelve years in
such a boarding school. An institution is a poor substitute for a home,
but in such cases it must do its best to combine the two. This means
that books are almost accessories; _school life_ is the most vital part
To such efforts the Indian girl responds almost incredibly. Whatever her
faults--and she has many--she is never bored. Her own background is so
narrow that school opens to her a new world of surprise. "Isn't it
wonderful!" is the constant reaction to the commonplaces of science. No
less wonderful to her is the liberty of thinking and acting for herself
that self-government brings.
Seeta loves her home, but before a month is over its close confinement
palls and she writes back, "I am living like a Muhammadan woman. I wish
it were the last day of vacation." Her father is shocked by her desire
to be up and doing. He calls on the school principal and complains, "I
don't know what to make of my daughter. Why is she not like her mother?
Are not cooking and sewing enough for any woman? Why has she these
strange ideas about doing all sorts of things that her mother never
wanted to do?" Then the principal tries to explain patiently that new
wine cannot be kept in old bottles, and that unless the daughter were to
he different from the mother it was hardly worth while to send her for
secondary education. So, when the long holiday is over, Seeta returns
with a fresh appreciation of what education means in her life; and we
know that when _her_ daughters come home for vacation, it will be to a
mother with sympathy and understanding.
The girls' loyalty to their school is at times almost pathetic. An
American teacher writes, "One moonlight night when I was walking about
the grounds talking with some of the oldest girls, one of them caught my
hand, and turned me about toward the school, which, even under the magic
of the Indian moon, did not seem a particularly beautiful sight to me.
'Amma' (mother), she said, in a voice quivering with emotion, 'See how
beautiful our school is! When I stand out here at night and look at it
through the trees, it gives me such a feeling _here_,' and she pressed
her hand over her heart.
"'Do you think it is only beautiful at night?' one of the other girls
asked indignantly, and all joined in enthusiastic affirmations of its
attractions even at high noon,--which all goes to show how relative the
matter is. I, with my background of Wellesley lawns and architecture,
find our school a hopelessly unsanitary makeshift to be endured
patiently for a few years longer, but to these girls with their
background of wretchedly poor village homes it is in its bare
cleanliness, as well as in its associations, a veritable place of
'sweetness and light.'"
Organized play is one of the gifts that school life brings to India. It,
too, has to be learned, for the Indian girl has had no home training in
initiative. The family or the caste is the unit and she is a passive
member of the group, whose supreme duty is implicit obedience. One
Friday when school had just reopened after the Christmas vacation, one
of the teachers came to the principal and said, "May we stop all classes
this afternoon and let the children play? You see," as she saw
remonstrance forthcoming, "it's just _because_ it's been vacation. They
say they have been so long at home and there has been no chance to
play." Classes were stopped, and all the school played, from the
greatest unto the least, until the newly aroused instinct was satisfied.
Basket ball had an interesting history in one school. At first the
players were very weak sisters, indeed. The center who was knocked down
wept as at a personal affront, and the defeated team also wept to prove
their penitence for their defeat. But gradually the team learned to play
fair, to take hard knocks, and to cheer the winners. They grew into such
"good sports" that when one day an invading cow, aggrieved at being hit
in the flank by a flying ball, turned and knocked the goal thrower flat
on the ground, the interruption lasted only a few minutes. The prostrate
goal-thrower recovered her breath, got over her fright, and, while
admiring friends chased the cow to a safe distance, the game went on to
The dramatic instinct is strong and the school girl actress shines,
whether in the role of Ophelia or Ramayanti. In India among Hindus or
Christians, in school or church or village, musical dramas are
frequently composed and played and hold unwearied audiences far into the
night. Among Christians there is a great fondness for dramatizing Bible
narratives. Joseph, Daniel, and the Prodigal Son appear in wonderful
Indian settings, "adapted" sometimes almost beyond recognition. They
show interesting likeness to the miracle and mystery plays of the Middle
Ages. There is the same naive presentation; the same introduction of the
buffoon to offset tragedy with comedy; the same tendency to
overemphasize the comic parts until all sense of reverence is lost. In
some respects India and Mediaeval Europe are not so far apart.
A high school class one night presented part of the old Tamil drama of
Harischandra. The heroine, an exiled queen, watches her child die before
her in the forest. Having no money to pay for cremation on the burning
ghat, she herself gathers firewood, builds a little pyre, and with such
tears and lamentations as befit an Oriental woman lays her child's body
on the funeral pile. Just as the fire is lighted and the corpse begins
to burn, the keeper of the burning ghat appears and, with anger at this
trespass, kicks over the pyre, puts the fire out, and throws the body
aside. Just at this moment Chandramathy sees in him the exiled king, her
husband and lord, and the father of her dead child. There are tearful
recognitions; together they gather again the scattered firewood, rebuild
the pyre, and share their common grief.
The play was given in a dimly lighted court, with simple costumes and
the crudest stage properties. But one spectator will not soon forget the
schoolgirl heroine whose masses of black hair swept to her knees. She
lived again all the pathos, the anger and despair and reconciliation of
the old tale, and her audience thrilled with her as at the touch of a
Co-operation in school government and discipline is one of the most
educational experiences that an Indian girl can pass through. To feel
the responsibility for her own actions and those of her schoolmates, to
form impersonal judgments that have no relation to one's likes and
dislikes, these are lessons found not between the covers of text-books,
but at the very heart of life-experience. Under such moral strain and
stress character develops, not as a hothouse growth of unreal dreams and
theories, but as the sturdy product of life situations.
Some schools divide themselves into groups, each of which elects a
"queen" to represent and to rule. The queens with elected teachers and
the principal form the governing body, before which all questions of
discipline come for settlement. Great is the office of a queen. She is
usually well beloved, but also at times well hated, for the "Court"
occasionally dispenses punishments far heavier than the teachers alone
would dare to inflict and its members often realize the truth of
Shakespeare's statement, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
[Illustration: PRIESTS OF THE HINDU TEMPLE.]
The "Court" is now in session and has two culprits before its bar.
Abundance has been found to have a cake of soap and a mirror, not her
own, shut up in her box. Lotus copied her best friend's composition and
handed it in as hers. What shall be done to the two? Discussion waxes
hot. The play hour passes. Shouts and laughter come in from the tennis
court and the basket ball field. Every one is having a good time save
the culprits and the four queens, who pay the penalty of greatness and
bear on their young shoulders the burdens of the world. Evidence is hard
to collect, for the witnesses disagree among themselves. Then there are
other complications. Abundance stole _things_ which you can see and
touch, while Lotus's theft was only one of intangible thoughts.
Furthermore, Abundance comes from a no-account family, quite "down and
out," while Lotus is a pastor's daughter and as such entitled to due
respect and deference. And still further, nobody likes Abundance, while
Lotus is very popular and counts one of the queens as her intimate
friend. Much time passes, the supper bell rings, and the players troop
noisily indoors, but the four burdened queens still struggle with their
dawning sense of justice. At last, as the swift darkness drops, the case
is closed and judgment pronounced. Much time has been consumed, but four
girls have learned a few of life's big lessons, not found in books, such
as: that thoughts are just as real as things; that likes and dislikes
have nothing to do with matters of discipline; that a girl of a "way up"
family should have more expected of her than one who is "down and out."
Perhaps that experience will count more than any "original" in geometry.
Student Government also brings about a wonderful comradeship between
teachers and pupils. Out of it has grown such a sense of friendly
freedom as found expression in this letter written to its American
teacher by a Junior Class who were more familiar with the meter of
Evangeline than with the geometry lesson assigned.
We are the Math. students who made you lose your temper this morning,
and we feel very sorry for that. We found that we are the girls who must
be blamed. We ought to have told you the matter beforehand, but we
didn't, so please excuse us for the fault which we committed and we
realize now. Our love to you.
V Form Math. Girls.
P.S. We would like to quote a poem which we are very much interested in
"What is that that ye do, my children?
What madness has seized you this morning?
Seven days have I labored among you,
Not in word alone, but showing the figures on the
Have you so soon forgotten all the definitions of _Loci_?
Is this the fruit of my teaching and laboring?"
Co-operation is needed not only in "being good," but also in eating and
drinking and keeping clean. There are school families in India where
every member from the "queen" to the most rollicking five-year-old has
her share in making things go. The queen takes her turn in getting up at
dawn to see that the "water set" is at the well on time; five-year-old
Tara wields her diminutive broom in her own small corner, and each is
proud of her share. There is in Indian life an unfortunate feud between
the head and the hand. To be "educated" means to be lifted above the
degradation of manual labor; to work with one's hands means something
lacking in one's brain. Not seldom does a schoolboy go home to his
village and sit idle while his father reaps the rice crop. Not seldom
does an "educated" girl spend her vacation in letter writing and crochet
work while her "uneducated" mother toils over the family cooking.
Girls, however, who have spent hours over the theories of food values,
balanced meals, and the nutrition of children, and other hours over the
practical working out of the theories in the big school family, go home
with a changed attitude toward the work of the house. Siromony writes
back at Christmas time, "The first thing I did after reaching home was
to empty out the house and whitewash it."
Ruth's letter in the summer vacation ends, "We have given our mother a
month's holiday. All she needs to do is to go to the bazaar and buy
supplies. My sister and I will do all the rest."
On Christmas day, Miracle, who is spending her vacation at school, all
on her own initiative gets up at three in the morning to kill chickens
and start the curry for the orphans' dinner, so that the work may be
well out of the way before time for the Christmas tree and church.
Golden Jewel begs the use of the sewing machine in the Mission bungalow.
All the days before Christmas her bare feet on the treadle keep the
wheels whirring. Morning and afternoon she is at it, for Jewel has a
quiver full of little brothers and sisters, and in India no one can go
to church on Christmas without a new and holiday-colored garment. One
after another they come from Jewel's deft fingers and lie on the floor
in a rainbow heap. When Christmas Eve comes all are finished--except her
own. On Christmas morning all the family are in church at that early
service dearest to the Indian Christian, with its decorations of palm
and asparagus creeper, its carols and rejoicings and new and shining
raiment. In the midst sits Jewel and her clothes to the most seem
shabby, but to those who know she is the best dressed girl in the whole
church, for she is wearing a new spiritual garment of unselfish service.
[Illustration: Tamil Girls Preparing for College]
[Illustration: The Village of the Seven Palms]
The Indian Girl's Religion.
To the Indian schoolgirl religion is the natural atmosphere of life. She
discusses her faith with as little self-consciousness as if she were
choosing the ingredients for the next day's curry. She knows nothing of
those Western conventions that make it "good form" for us to hide all
our emotions, all our depth of feeling, under the mask of not caring at
all. She has none of that inverted hypocrisy which causes us to take
infinite pains to assure our world that we are vastly worse than we are.
What Lotus feels she expresses simply, naturally, be it her interest in
biology, her friendship for you, or her response to the love of the
All-Father. And that response is deep and genuine. There is a spiritual
quality, an answering vibration, which one seldom finds outside the
Orient. You lead morning prayers and to pray is easy, because in those
schoolgirl worshippers you feel the mystic quality of the East leaping
up in response. You teach a Bible class and the girls' eager questions
run ahead so fast that you lose your breath as you try to keep pace.
The following letter was written by a girl just after her first
experience of a mountain climb with a vacation camp at the top. "Now we
are on Kylasa, enjoying our 'mountain top experience.' This morning
Miss ---- gave a beautiful and inspiring talk on visions. She showed us
that the climbing up Kylasa could be a parable of our journey through
this world. In places where it was steep and where we were tired, the
curiosity we had to see the full vision on the top kept us courageous to
go forward and not sit long in any place. She compared this with our
difficulties and dark times and this impressed me most, I think.
"When we came up it was dark and I was supposed to come in the chair,
but I did not wait for it, because I was very curious to go up. When I
came to a place very dark, with bushes and trees very thick on both
sides, I had to give up and wait until the others came. When I was
waiting I saw the big, almost red moon coming, stealing its way through
the dark clouds little by little. It was really glorious. I thought of
this when Miss ---- talked to us, and it made it easier to understand her
feeling about that.
"So much of that, and now I want to tell you about the steep rocks I am
climbing these days," and then follows the application to the big "Hill
Difficulty" that was blocking up her own life path.
God in Nature.
Love of nature is not as spontaneous in the Indian girl as in the
Japanese. Yet with but a little training of the seeing eye and
understanding heart, there develops a deep love of beauty that includes
alike flowers and birds, sunsets and stars. A High School senior thus
expressed her thoughts about it at the final Y.W.C.A. meeting of the
"Nature stands before our eyes to make us feel God's presence. I feel
God's presence very close when I happen to see the glorious sunset and
bright moonlight night when everybody around me is sleeping. I think
Nature gives a much greater and more glorious impression about God than
"Whenever I felt troubled or worried, I did not often read the Bible or
prayer book, but I wanted to go alone to some quiet place from where I
could see the broad, bright blue sky with all its mysteries and green
trees and gray mountains with fields and forests around them.
"I think Nature is the best comforter and preacher of God. When we are
too tired to learn our lessons or to do our duty, we can go alone for a
safe distance where God waits for us to strengthen us. It is hard for me
to sit and think about God in the class room, where everybody is
speaking, and the class books and sums on the board attract my
attention, or make me feel useless because I was not able to do them as
nicely as others in my class. But, if we go away from all these, our
friend Nature jumps up and greets us with new greetings. The cool wind
and the pretty birds and wonderful little flowers and giant-like rocks
help us to feel the presence of God. We cannot appreciate all these when
we are walking with the crowd and talking and playing, but, if we are
left alone when we go out to see God, then even the stones and tiny
flowers which we often see look like a mystery to us. In thinking about
them we can feel the wisdom of God."
Crude as the English may be, the spiritual perception is not so
different from that of the English lad who cried,
"My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky."
Religion Made Practical.
Religious feeling and expression may be natural to the Indian mind, but
how about its transfer to the affairs of the common day? It is a hard
enough proposition for any of us, be we from the East or the West; to
make the difficulty even greater, the Indian girl is heir to a religious
system in which religion and morals may be kept in water-tight
compartments. Where the temples shelter "protected" prostitution and the
wandering "holy man" may break all the Ten Commandments with impunity,
it is hard to learn that the worship of God means right living. Harder
than irregular verbs or English idioms is the fundamental lesson that
the Bible class on Sunday has a vital connection with honest work in
arithmetic on Monday, the settling of a quarrel on Tuesday, and the
thorough sweeping of the schoolroom on Wednesday. Right here it is that
we see "the grace of God" at work in the hearts of big girls and
middle-sized girls and little children from the villages. When classes
can be left to take examinations unsupervised, a big step forward is
marked. When before Communion Sunday the "queens" of their own
initiative settle up the school quarrels and "make peace," one has the
glad feeling that a little bit of the Kingdom of God has come in one
small corner of the earth.
[Illustration: BASKETBALL AT ISABELLA THOBURN COLLEGE, LUCKNOW]
"Among you as He that serveth."
Religious emotion may find one of its normal outlets in personal
right-living. That is good as far as it goes, but yet not enough. It
must seek expression also in making life better for other people. The
Indian schoolgirl lives in the midst of a vast social laboratory,
surrounded by problems that are overwhelmingly intricate. What is her
education worth? Nothing, if it leads to a cloistered seclusion;
everything, if it brings her into vital healing touch with even one of
The spirit of Christian social service opens many doors. There are
Sunday afternoons to be spent with the shy pupils of the High Caste
Girls' Schools at the opposite end of town. In the outcaste village
beside the rice fields we may find the other end of the social
scale--twenty or thirty little barbarians whose opening exercises must
start off with a compulsory bath at the well.
Vacation weeks at home are bristling with opportunity--the woman next
door whose forgotten art of reading may be revived; the bride in the
next street who longs to learn crochet work; the little troop of
neighbor children who crowd the house to learn the haunting strains of a
Christian lyric. A cholera epidemic breaks out, and, instead of blind
fear of a demon-goddess to be placated, there is practical knowledge as
to methods of guarding food and drinking water. The baby of the house is
ill and, instead of exorcisms and branding with hot irons, there is a
visit to the nearest hospital and enough knowledge of hygienic laws to
follow out the doctor's directions.
Rebecca teaches a class of small boys in the outcaste Sunday school that
gives preliminary baths. On this particular Sunday, however, she starts
out armed not with the picture roll and lyric book, but with a motley
collection of soap and clean rags, cotton swabs and iodine and ointment.
"Amma," says Rebecca, "in the little thatched house, the fourth beyond
the school, I saw a boy whose head is covered with sores. May Zipporah
teach my class to-day, while I go and treat the sores, as I have learned
to do in school?" So Rebecca, following in the steps of Him who sent out
His disciples not only to preach but also to heal, attacks one of the
little strongholds of dirt and disease and carries it by storm. No young
surgeon after his first successful major operation was ever prouder than
Rebecca when the next Sunday evening she rushes into the bungalow, eyes
shining, to report her cure complete.
Is there somewhere an American girl who longs to "do things"? A little
plumbing--or its equivalent in a land where no plumbing is; a little
bossing of the carpenter, the mason, the builder; a great deal of "high
finance" in raising one dollar to the purchasing power of two; a deal of
administration with need for endless tact; the teaching of subjects
known and unknown,--largely the latter; a vast amount of mothering and a
proportionate return in the love of children; days bristling with
problems, and nights when one sinks into bed too tired to think or
feel--there you have it, with much more. More because it means
opportunity for creative work--creative as one helps to mould the new
education of new India; creative as one reverently helps to fashion some
of the lives that are to be new India itself. More too, as the rebound
comes back to one's self in a life too full for loneliness, too
obsessing for self-interest. Does it pay? Try it for yourself and see.
One bright noon in North India, sixty years ago, a young missionary on
an evangelistic tour among the villages paused to rest by the wayside.
As he paced up and down beneath the tamarind trees, pondering the
problem of India's womanhood, shut in the zenanas beyond the reach of
the Gospel which he was bringing to the little villages, there fell at
his feet a feather from a vulture's wing. Picking it up, he whimsically
cut it into a quill. Thinking that his sister in far-away America might
like a letter from so strange a pen, he went into his tent and wrote to
her. He told her of the millions of girls shut up in those "citadels of
heathenism," the zenanas of India,--a problem which only Christian women
might hope to solve. Half playfully, half in earnest, he added, "Why
don't you come out and help?" As swift as wind and wave permitted was
Isabella Thoburn's answer, "I am coming as soon as the way opens!"
Already a group of women, stirred to the depths by the words of Mrs.
Edwin W. Parker and Mrs. William Butler, returned missionaries from
India, were forming a Society to help the women and girls of Christless
lands. At the first public meeting of this Woman's Foreign Missionary
Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, though but twenty women were
present with but three hundred dollars in the treasury, when they
learned that Isabella Thoburn,--gifted, consecrated, wise,--was ready to
go to India, they exclaimed, "Shall we lose Miss Thoburn because we have
not the needed money in our hands to send her? No, rather let us walk
the streets of Boston in our calico dresses, and save the expense of
more costly apparel!" Thus was answered the letter written with the
feather from the vulture's wing by the wayside in India. In 1870,
Isabella Thoburn gathered six little waifs into her first school in
India, a one-roomed building in the noisy, dusty bazaar of Lucknow. From
this brave venture have grown the Middle School, the High School, and
finally in 1886 the first woman's Christian College in all Asia, housed
in the Ruby Garden, Lal Bagh. Here for thirty-one years Isabella Thoburn
lived and loved and labored for the girls of India.
I. THE GARDEN OF HID TREASURE
Prelude: Why go to College?
"Why should an Indian girl want a college education?" queried Mary
Smith, as she listened to her roommate's account of the "Lighting of the
Christmas Candles." "I can see why she would need to learn to read and
write, and even a high school course I wouldn't mind; but college seems
to me perfectly silly, and an awful waste of good money. Why, from our
own home high school there are only six of us at college."
Mary Smith, fresh from "Main Street," may be less provincial than she
sounds. Her question puts up a real problem. When only one girl in one
hundred has a chance at the Three R's, is it right to "waste money" on
giving certain others the chance to delve into psychology and higher
mathematics? When there is not bread enough to go around, why should
some of the family have cake and pudding?
Something less than a hundred years ago, similar questions were vexing
the American public. Those were the days when Mary Lyon fought her
winning battle against the champions of the slogan "The home is woman's
sphere," the days in which the pioneers of women's education
foregathered from the rocky farmslopes of New England, and Mt. Holyoke
came into being. Mary Smith, who is duly born, baptized, vaccinated, and
registered for Vassar, the last requiring no more volition on her part
than the first, realizes little of the ancient struggle that has made
her privilege a matter of course.
They are much the same old arguments that must be gone over again to
justify college education for our sisters of the East. Rather say
argument, in the singular, for there is just one that holds, and that is
the possibilities for service that such education opens up.
High schools there must be in India, but who will teach them? American
and English women have never yet gone out to India in such numbers as to
staff the schools they have founded, nor would there be funds to support
them if they did. Travel through India to-day and you will find girls'
schools staffed either with under-qualified women teachers, or else with
men whose academic qualifications are satisfactory, but who, being men,
cannot fill the place where a woman is obviously needed. What could be
more contradictory than to find a Christian girls' school, supported
largely by American money, but staffed by Hindu men, just because no
Christian women with necessary qualifications are available?
Hospitals there must be, but where are the doctors to conduct them? Here
again, foreign doctors can fill the need of the merest fraction of
India's suffering womankind. But the American doctor can multiply
herself in just one way. Give her a Medical College, well equipped and
staffed, and a body of Indian girls with a sufficient background of
general education, and instead of one doctor and one hospital you will
find countless centres of healing springing up in city and small town
and along the roadside where the doctor passes by.
Leadership there must be among the women of the New India. Where will it
be found but among those women whose powers of initiative have been
developed by the four years of life in a Christian college? Church
workers, pastors' wives, social workers, child welfare promoters, where
can you find them in India? Here and there, scattered in unlikely
places, where educated women, married and home-making, yet let their
surplus energy flow out into neighborhood betterment.
Mothers of families there must be, and far be it from me to say that
non-college women fail in that high office. There comes before me one
mother of fourteen children who has never seen the inside of a college
classroom, yet whom it would be hard to excel in her qualities of
motherliness. But, other things being equal, it is to the Christian,
educated mothers that we turn to find the life of the ideal home, with
real comradeship between wife and husband, with intelligent
understanding of the children, and the coveting for them of the best
that education can give.
One other question Mary Smith may rightly ask. What about the men's
colleges already existing? Will co-education not work in India?
To a certain limited extent it has. Rukkubai, with her too brief years
of freedom, proved its possibility. Others there have been, pioneer
souls, who pushed their way into lecture halls crowded with men, took
notes in the dark and undesirable remnants of space allotted to them,
and by dint of perseverance and hard work passed the examinations of the
University and carried off the coveted degree.
They were courageous women, deserving admiration. They won knowledge,
sometimes at heavy cost of health and nerve power. They helped to make
women's education possible. But what of the fairer side of college life
could they ever know? They were accepted always on sufferance; they
never "belonged." One such pioneer was a friend of mine. In many walks
and talks she told me of life in a men's college under the patronage of
the Maharajah of a native state. Loyal to her college, and proud of the
treasures of opportunity it had opened to her, she yet sighed for what
she had missed. "When I see the life of the girls in the Women's
Christian College at Madras," she said, "I feel that I have never been
Three times the girls and women of America have reached out hands across
the sea and either founded or helped to found Christian schools of
higher education for the women of India, with the belief that they have
a right to the knowledge of the spiritual truth which has brought to
Christian women of America development in righteousness, freedom of
faith, a personal knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, and the blessed
hope of immortality.
Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow, 1886.
The Women's Christian College, Madras, 1915.
The Vellore Medical School, 1918.
These three names and dates are red-lettered in the history of
international friendship, for through them the college women of America
and India are joined into one fellowship of knowledge and service.
[Illustration: BIOLOGY CLASS AT LUCKNOW COLLEGE
Head of Class Leaning on Table, and Nine Students Dissecting Nine Rabbits]
A dusty journey of a night and almost a day brings you from Calcutta
across the limitless Ganges plains to Lucknow, capital of the ancient
kingdom of Oudh. Every tourist visits it, making a pious pilgrimage
first to the Residency, where in the midst of green lawns and banyan
trees the scarred ruins tell of the unforgettable Mutiny days of '57;
and then to the nearby cemetery, where the dead sleep among the
jasmines. Then, if his hours are wisely chosen, the traveler drives back
to the town at sunset when palace towers and cupolas, mosque minarets
and domes are silhouetted against the blazing west in an unrivalled
The tourist returns to the bazaars and in the midst of them, amid the
dust and clatter of _ekkas_ and _tongas_, probably passes by a sight
more interesting than Residency ruins and abandoned palaces--inasmuch as
it deals with the living present rather than the dead past. It was in
Lal Bagh, the Ruby Garden of hid treasure, that the Nawab Iq
bal-ud-dowler, Lord Chamberlain to the first king of Oudh, hid,
according to report, great caskets of silver rupees, with a huge ruby
possessed of magic virtues, and left behind him a sheet of detailed
directions for finding the treasure, with, alas, a postscript to explain
that all the careful directions were quite wrong, being intended to
mislead the would-be discoverer. It was again in Lal Bagh that Isabella
Thoburn founded her school for Indian girls, and in 1886 opened the
classes of the first women's college for India to possess residence
accommodation and a staff of women teachers. The buried rupees and the
magic ruby have never been unearthed; instead these years of Lal Bagh
history have witnessed the discovery of richer treasure in the minds and
hearts of young women, set free from age-long repressions and sent out
to share their riches with a world in need.
You enter Lal Bagh's gates and find yourself before a stretch of dull
red buildings whose wide-arched verandahs are built to keep out the
fierce suns of May In November the sun has lost its terrors, and you
rejoice in its warmth as it shines upon the gardens with their riot of
color--yellow and white chrysanthemums, roses, and masses of flaming
poinsettias, surely a fair setting for the girls who walk amid its
As you leave the setting and for a few days merge yourself into the life
that is going on within, there are a few outstanding impressions that
fasten upon you and persistently mingle with Lal Bagh memories. Of
these, perhaps, the foremost is the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Here you
have on the one hand a group of American college women representing no
one locality, no narrow section of American life, but drawn from east
and west, north and south. On the other side, you see a body of nearly
sixty Indian students whose homes range all the way from Ceylon to the
Northwest frontier, from Singapore to Bombay.
What of the result? It is an atmosphere where East and West meet, not in
conflict, but in a spirit of give and take, where each re-inforces the
other. It is probably due to this friendly clash of ideas that the
"typical" student at Isabella Thoburn strikes the observer as of no
"type" at all, but a person whose ideas are her own and who has a gift
for original thinking rare in one's experience of Indian girls. In the
class forums that were held during my visit the most striking element
was the difference of opinion, and its free expression.
Scholarship. Lal Bagh is no longer satisfied with the production of mere
graduates. Her ambition is now reaching out to post-graduate study, made
possible by the gift of an American fellowship. The first to receive
this honor are two Indian members of the faculty, one of them Miss
Thillayampalam, Professor of Biology, whose home is in far-off Ceylon at
the other end of India's world. Henceforth, America may expect to find
each year one member of the Lal Bagh family enrolled in some school of
graduate work. Such work, however, is not to be confined to a
scholarship in a foreign land, for this year the college enrolls Regina
Thumboo, its first candidate for the degree of M.A. Her parents,
originally from the South, emigrated from Madras to Singapore. There
Regina was born, the youngest of five children. The father, a civil
engineer in the employ of a local rajah was ambitious for his
children, and, seeing in Regina a child of unusual promise, sent her
first to a Singapore school, then on the long journey across to Calcutta
and inland to Lucknow. At Lal Bagh she stands foremost in scholarship.
When she has completed her M.A. in history and had her year of advanced
work in some American university, she plans to return to the faculty of
her _Alma Mater_.
Scholarship at Isabella Thoburn College does not deal exclusively with
the dusty records of dead languages and bygone civilizations. It is
linked up with present questions, and is alive to the changing India of
to-day. Among the matters discussed during my visit were such as: the
substitution of a vernacular for English in the university course; the
possibility of a national language for all India; the advisability of
co-education; and the place of the unmarried woman in New India. To
report all that the girls said and wrote would require a book for
itself, but so far as space allows we will let the girls speak for
The Senior Class of eight discussed co-education with great interest,
and when the vote was taken five were in the affirmative and only three
in the negative.
The following paper voices the objections to co-education as expressed
by one especially thoughtful student:
"Co-education is an excellent thing, but it can only work successfully
in those highly civilized countries where intellectual and moral
strength and freedom of intercourse control the lives and thoughts of
the student bodies. Unfortunately these fundamental principles of
co-education are sadly lacking in India.
"Although woman's education is being pushed forward with considerable
force, for many years to come the girls will still be a small minority
in comparison with the number of boys. Besides, in two or three cases
where Indian girls have had the privilege of studying with the boys,
they have told me that, in spite of immensely enjoying the competitive
spirit and broadminded behavior of the boys, they always felt a certain
strain and strangeness in their company. One student attended a history
class for full two years and yet she never got acquainted with one
single boy in her class. There is no social intercourse between the two
parties. If each side does not stand on its own dignity in constant fear
of overstepping the bounds of etiquette and courtesy, their reputation
is bound to be marred."
The arguments for the other side are presented as well. The American
reader may be interested to see that the Indian college girl does not
consider Western ways perfect, but is quite ready to criticize the
manners and morals of her American cousin.
"Co-education cannot burst upon India like lightning. It has to grow
gradually in society; and until there is a perfect understanding and
sympathy between the sexes, this system will not work.
"Again, co-education should not begin from college. The girls come in
from high schools where they are locked up and have no contact with the
outside world; and if they come into such colleges when many of them are
immature, there will be not only a complete failure of the system, but
the result will be fatal in many cases. So the system should be
introduced from the primary department and worked up through the high
schools and colleges.
"First, there is the question of chivalry, which is a problem that
Indian men should solve for themselves. But how are they to solve it? If
they study with women, chivalry would become natural to them.
"On the other hand, a woman has to learn how to receive a man's
attention--how far to go in her behavior. The question now is, where can
she learn this? Isn't it by mixing and mingling in a place where she
feels that she is not inferior to man? It is in an educational
institution that this equality is most keenly felt.
"Closely allied with chivalry is the question of modesty. It is commonly
said that Indian women have a poise, quietness, and reserve different to
that in Western women.
"Boldness in women is another fact connected with the above. Indian men
and women should not try to follow Western manners. They have hereditary
manners which should not be deserted. Indian women can keep their
modesty and reserve even while mixing with men. If co-education is made
a slow development this difficulty will not appear.
"Secondly, this system will give more facilities to woman for various
kinds of occupation. She will then realize that her education is not
confined to her home merely, but that she has a right to contribute to
humanity just as big a share as any man. With this realization there
will come efforts on her part to better the condition of her country by
doing her little share. How much a woman can do who has a firm
conviction that she is not inferior to any one in this life, but that
she is a contributor to her country, whichsoever vocation she follows in
life, in that she can do her share!
"The third point is that early marriage and widowhood will be lessened
in a large degree. While education will teach men and women to reverence
their parents and always consult them, at the same time they will learn
to choose for themselves. By coming in contact with the opposite sex,
they will learn to decide their marriage themselves; and choosing does
not come at an early and immature age. Thus child widowhood, too, will
be decreased. Then, too, the widows will be able to work for their
livelihood if they don't wish to marry again."
To the North India girl, perhaps the most vexing social question is that
of _purdah_. How can education reach women who live shut away from the
sky and the sun and the lives of men? On the other hand, if after the
seclusion of a thousand years freedom were suddenly thrust upon women
not even trained to desire it, who can measure the disaster that would
follow? Where can the vicious circle be broken, and how?
Tiny arcs of its circumference have been broken already. Lal Bagh
includes in its family not only its majority of Christian girls, but
also a scattering of Hindus and Muhammadans who have made more or less
of a break with ancestral customs.
One among these is a member of the Sophomore Class, Omiabala Chatterji
of Allahabad. Of Brahman parentage, she was fortunate in having a father
of liberal views, who was ambitious for his daughter's education. He
died when Omiabala was but three years old, but not before he had passed
on to his wife his hopes for the future of the little daughter. The
mother, with no experience of school life herself, but only the limited
opportunity of a little teaching in her own home, yet entered into the
father's ambitions. From childhood Omiabala was taught that hers was not
to be the ordinary life of the Brahman woman--she was set apart by her
father's wish, dedicated to the service of her people. So the years came
and went, and instead of wedding festivities the child was sent away on
the journey to Lucknow, to enter into a strange, new life. There
followed weeks of homesickness and longing, then gradual adjustment,
then glad acceptance of new opportunity. Omiabala now talks
enthusiastically of her future plans for work among her own
people--plans for the education of Brahman girls, and for marriage
reform such as shall make this possible.
[Illustration: VILLAGE PEOPLE.]
The Freshman Class had a spirited discussion as to the benefits and
evils of the purdah system. Opinions ranged all the way from that of the
zealous young reformer who wished it abolished at once and for all;
through advocates of slow changes lasting ten, twenty or even thirty
years; all the way to the young Hindu wife, who would never see it done
away with, "because women would become disobedient to their husbands."
Here are some of the pros and cons. A Hindu student writes:
"I maintain that the purdah system should not be done away with
altogether, for it will upset the whole foundation of the Hindu
principle of 'dharm' or how a woman should act and behave before she is
called a good and honorable woman. Sometimes, when a woman is given much
freedom and liberty and is allowed to go wherever she pleases, she
begins to take advantage of such opportunities and does those things
which might bring disgrace to the family. The question of education
should not be brought up in connection with the purdah, for even the
educated ladies are apt to fall in the same temptation as the uneducated
ones when the purdah system is removed altogether. The purdah system has
done much to maintain the honor and respect of the higher class ladies.
The low class women who are always abroad working among men and in the
midst of throngs of people are not educated at all and have as much
freedom as their men have. So we can conclude that the purdah system
only exists among higher classes of people and those who care much for
the honor and respect of their family. The higher a family is the more
it will be particular about this system."
The following paragraph expresses the views of a Muhammadan Freshman:
"Among us, that is the Muslims, purdah is very strict. Ladies need
purdah at present, for the men are not civilized enough. Besides, the
purdah system should be gradually abolished. If too much freedom is
given all at once, ladies won't know how to behave and they will be an
hindrance in further progress. Education is at the back of progress.
Girls should first be educated and given liberty gradually. Though we
Muslim girls have come to Christian colleges and don't observe purdah,
yet we are very careful of how we should make the best of it and show a
good example by our personality and behavior so that the people who
criticize us may not have anything to say. I think if all of us try hard
to abolish this system it will take us at least twenty years to do it.
No matter what happens I don't approve of ladies mixing _very_ much with
"There are certainly many disadvantages in the purdah system. For
instance, it makes ladies quite helpless and dependent. They cannot go
out to get any thing or travel even if they are in great necessity. They
do not know the streets and roads, so they cannot run away to save their
honor or life. Men seem to become their right hand and feet. They do not
know, often, what is going on outside their homes and do not enjoy the
beauty of nature, and live an uneventful life. This seems to make the
ladies lazy and they always keep planning marriages. This is the chief
reason of the early marriage of girls among the Muslims. The girl
herself has nothing to do, so they think it best for her to get
With these it is interesting to compare the views of a Christian
student, a young pastor's wife, who along with the care of home and
children is now receiving the higher education of which she was deprived
in her schoolgirl days.
"The genius of the East will take some time to be taught the social
customs of the West. To an Indian it would be a horrible idea if his
sister or daughter or wife will go out to tea or supper or dance with a
young man who is neither related nor a close friend of the family. India
will fondly preserve its genius.
"Indian leaders look with alarm at the possibility of a female India of
the type of the West. They would like the purdah system to be removed,
females to be educated, to get the franchise, and still for them to keep
their modesty. There are many who would like to break this barrier, but
it would be disastrous for India to arrive at such a state within
fifteen or twenty years when ninety-nine out of one hundred women are
illiterate. Education is essential and as long as Indian women, the
future mothers of India, do not realize their responsibility, it is much
better and wiser that they should remain behind the scene.
"The help we can give in bringing about this great reform is to show by
our example. Freedom does not mean simply coming out of purdah and
taking undue advantage and misuse of liberty. We who have done away
with our purdah should not be stumbling blocks to others. Freedom guided
and governed by the Spirit of God is the only freedom and every true
citizen ought to help to bring it about."
Lal Bagh students are interested not only in the theories of social
reform; they are taking a direct part in the application of these
theories through the means of social service, not put off for some
future "career," but carried on during the busy weeks of college life.
Nor is such service merely social; through it all the Christian motive
holds sway. We will let one of the students tell in her own words what
they are attempting.
"'Cleanliness is next to godliness' is the first lesson we teach in our
social and Christian service fields. Both in our work in the city and in
our own servants' compound, we emphasize personal cleanliness and that
of the home, and have regular inspection of servants' homes.
"Religious instruction is given to non-Christian children and women in
various sections of the city in separate classes. Side by side with
these, they are given tips about doctoring simple ailments, and taught
how to take precautions at the time of epidemics like cholera, typhoid,
etc. Lotions, fever mixtures, cough mixtures, quinine, etc., are given
to the poorer depressed classes, as also clothes and soap to the needy
"In the servants' compound plots have been provided for gardening, and
provision made for the children's play, and pictures given to parents as
prizes for tidy homes. Soap and clothes and medicines are given here
also; a special series of lectures on diseases and the evils of drink
has been started. A lecture a week is given--cholera, malaria, typhoid
fever, dysentery have been touched on--lantern slides and charts and
pictures have been used for illustration. On Saturday nights the
Christian servants have song-service and prayer meeting, and on Sunday
noon a Bible class. Each of these is conducted by a teacher assisted by
girls of the College.
"There is opportunity for service for people of all tastes--those who
prefer teaching how to read and write, for sewing, for care of the
health, care of the baby, avoiding sickness, nursing the sick ... but in
every case devotion, enthusiasm, and a sympathetic Christian spirit are
needed. Our motive both among our own Christian servants and those who
reside in the city and are non-Christians is to serve the least of our
needy fellowmen according to the wishes of our Master, and to enlighten
and uplift our less fortunate neighbors through the avenues of Christian
An interesting practical suggestion is the following:
"In our Social Service class, which is held every Thursday, there has
come up a suggestion about opening up a few Purdah Parks for Indian
ladies. It is very essential that Indian women should have some places,
where they can take recreation and have some social intercourse with one
another, also that the rich and poor may all meet and be brought into
sympathy with one another.
"There is a Park right in front of our College, and we have suggested
that, if this particular Park is made into a Purdah Park once a week,
then we college girls interested in social service work can form a
committee and look after the different arrangements, such as the water
supply, games, playthings for children, etc.
"We have drawn up a petition and this will be signed by the influential
ladies of this place, such as the wives of the Professors of our Lucknow
University, and then it will be presented to the Lucknow Improvement
"We all hope that this petition will be granted, and our sisters will
have more of social life and hygienic advantages, to help make stronger
mothers and stronger children."
Nor do the girls of Isabella Thoburn College forget all these interests
when vacation days come round. This tells something of holiday
opportunity. How do our summer vacations compare with it? "How apt one
is to slacken and get a little selfish in planning out a programme for a
holiday. One is not tied down to the usual duties and routine of school
work, and plans are made as to the best possible way of spending the
days for one's own pleasure and relaxation. The many little things that
one's heart longs for, and for which there is no time during the busy
days, are now looked forward to; a particular piece of needlework, a
favorite book, some excursions to places of interest; all these and
other things are likely to crowd out thoughts of our duties to others in
making life a little better and some one a little happier each day.
"And yet a holiday is the time when one can more freely give oneself to
others, for opportunities of helpful service offer themselves in the
very holiday pursuits, if one has eyes for them.
"Rooming in a home where many mothers have still many more children, one
would feel at first like escaping from the noise and commotion caused by
crying babies, and yet here are some opportunities of service. It is
never a wise plan to leave children to the entire care of ayahs. A very
profitable hour may be spent in directing games when the little people
build with their bricks gates and bridges, houses and castles, and the
older ones listen with interest to some story of adventure. An hour
spent in the open air under shady trees in this way would draw many a
grateful heart, for there would be less crying, fewer quarrels, and a
little more peace for all around.
"In these days when strikes are so common, many opportunities for social
service offer themselves. It may be a postal strike. Now, not many of us
like to be kept waiting for our mail, and, if the postmen are not
bringing us our letters, we very soon contrive some means of getting
them. I grant it isn't a very enviable job to be standing outside a
delivery window awaiting the sorting of letters by a crew of girl guides
and boy scouts, who are not any too serious about their work. But once
the letters are secured and delivered at the neighboring homes of
friends and others, it is something done, besides the satisfaction of
being able to sit down and read your own letters as well as having the
grateful appreciation from others.
"Again, a picnic has been planned to some far away hill. The party
arrives; tiffin baskets are placed in some shady spot. One of the party
wanders away to a little village not far off. She is soon surrounded by
a group of scrubby children, who watch her with eyes full of curiosity
and wonder. She dips her hand into the bag she has been carrying and
brings out a handful of nuts and oranges, and, before sharing them with
the children, she invites them to wash their scrubby, little hands and
faces in the sparkling stream of clear, crystal water that is flowing
through the valley. She gets to talking to them, and asks about their
homes, and one little child leads her to a meagre, little, grassy hut in
which her sick sister is lying. She hasn't any medicine with her, but
she opens wide the door of the hut and lets the bright sunlight in. She
strokes the little one's feverish brow, and sets to, and fixes up the
bed and soon gets the sickroom, such as it is, clean and tidy. The
mother is touched by the gentle kindliness of the stranger and confides
her sorrows to her. Other homes are visited. People expecting the kind
visitor brush up and tidy their huts.
"So the picnic excursion ends leaving a cleaner and happier spot
nestling in among those mountainsides. Several visits are paid to the
little village. The stranger is no longer a stranger, for she is now
known and loved and is greeted by clean, happy, smiling children, and
blessed by grateful mothers. And so in the home and in the office and in
God's out-of-doors we can find opportunities for helping others."
[Illustration: GIRLS OF ALL CASTES MEET ON COMMON GROUND IN THE
Eminent among the student body for maturity of thought and depth of
Christian purpose is Shelomith Vincent. Many of these characteristics
may be accounted for by her splendid inheritance. Her father was of the
military caste, the son of a Zemindar, or petty rajah. At the time of
the Mutiny he, a boy of ten years, ran away in the crowd and followed
the mutineers on their long march from Lucknow to Agra, where he was
rescued by a missionary and brought up in his family. Later, longing to
know his past, the young man returned to Lucknow, found his relatives,
weighed in the balance the claims of Hinduism and Christianity, and of