Page images

works or by recording the eminently brilliant and practical educational experiments and successes of this country.

One of the hopeful signs of confidence in the executive ability of women of higher education, is the creation of trusteeships for women. Barnard College's trustees, eight in number, are women. Vassar has three women trustees, and Boston University has added another to its women trustees.

It is a perennial hope of women to report large endowments by women to the cause of higher education for women, but there is a vast difference sometimes between hope and fact. True, there have been precious gifts like that of Von Ranke's library whose estimated value is $50,000, presented to Syracuse University by Mrs. Dr. John M. Reid of New York; or like that of the 12,000 engravings in the Wolff collection, given by Mrs. Harriet Leavenworth of Syracuse, to Syracuse University; to the same University, Mrs. J. Dorman Steele has given a valuable set of apparatus for a physical laboratory; and another gift to Syracuse is that of a fine collection of Chinese and Japanese curios, donated by Mrs. Elizabeth Hill of Syracuse. Still, taken as a whole, the fact of large endowments to women's colleges by women, is a fact of dwarf size. The whole question is so recent that we must work, and in a measure wait for its development. There are more than a thousand members of the Association of Collegiate Alumnæ scattered over our country. These, with other educated women are interesting the community in the need of more help to educate women on the best basis. As the number of graduates increases, as their work brings an income to them, as they pass to the command and influence of money, as they enter the legal profession and become thus the advisers of women and of men in the disposition of their wealth, as they enter business to become themselves its managers, they will direct the channels of income to the colleges that fit for life the women as well as the men of the United States.

[ocr errors]

they show

Words are the notes of thought, and nothing more.
Words are like sea-shells on the shore
Where the mind ends, and not how far it has been.
Let every thought, too, soldier-like, be stripped
And roughly looked over.





HE silence of a thousand years concerning the condition of the High Caste Hindu women has been broken by a representative woman from the city of Poona, in India. In the autumn of 1883, there came to Philadelphia a little lady in a blue cotton gown, called Mrs. Anandibai Joshee. She was but eighteen years old, though in her land of child-marriages, she had been a wife for nine years. An intense desire to elevate her countrywomen and minister to their physical needs in her own person, caused her to make the superhuman effort of crossing the sea to "the holy land called America," that she might study medicine in one of its colleges. It is a great step for a Hindu woman to cross the sea, and cut herself off from her people, and nothing but an invincible faith in the ultimate accomplishment of the disenthrallment of Hindu women could have given her strength to do it. She believed that the want of women doctors was the cause, of hundreds and thousands of women dying prematurely. The women are naturally more reserved than in other countries, and most of them would rather die than speak of their ailments to a man. With this single-hearted purpose, this high caste Hindu woman settled down to work in the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, with a degree of intelligence and industry that was a revelation to those about her.

The great-hearted Dean, Rachel Bodley, became interested in her at once, as she listened to the brave, patriotic resolve that had brought this gentle, grave woman across the seas. "I will go to America," she said, "as a Hindu, and come back and live among my people as a Hindu," a resolve which was carried out to the death. The Dean says, "She tried faithfully, this little woman of eighteen, to prosecute her studies, and at the same time to keep caste-rules, and cook her own food, but the anthracite coal stove in her room was a constant vexation, and likewise a source of danger, and the solitude of the individual housekeeping was overwhelming. In her father's house the con

gregate system prevailed, and being a man of means, the family was always large. Later, when under her husband's care, he had been in the postal service, and the dwelling apartments were in the same building with the post-office, hence, she had never known complete solitude.

After a trial of two weeks her health declined to such an alarming extent that I invited her to pay a short visit in my home, and she never left it again to dwell elsewhere in Philadelphia during her student residence. In the performance of her college duties, the dean adds, "going in and out, and up and down, always in her measured, quiet, dignified, patient way, she has filled every room, as well as the stairways and halls, with memories which now hallow the home, and must continue so to do, throughout years to come."

The brave student completed her studies and graduated with honor, in March, 1886, being the first Hindu woman to receive the degree of Doctor of Medicine in any country. She was appointed, early in June to the position of Physician in Charge of the Female Ward of the Albert Edward Hospital, in the city of Kolhapur, India, and sailed from New York in October, to assume her duties in Kolhapur. She had battled with every circumstance, and resolved to live and work as a Hindu, for the uplifting of her sisters, but all in vain. After years of exile, she found herself in the home of her childhood, only to learn that she was sinking beneath the wasting hand of illness. "I have done all that I could," was her pathetic message to her American friends, as in February, 1887, four short months after her return, she passed away in the city of Poona, in her mother's arms, in the house in which she was born. The city was stirred as never before, to honor a woman, and amid the pomp of Brahmanical funeral rites, her funeral pile was lighted from the sacred fire by orthodox Hindu priests, in the presence of a great throng of sorrowing Hindus. The hopeful expectations of her country women were dissipated, but who can tell the extent of her influence? It may be that she has accomplished more by her death than she could have done by a long life.

When her husband and herself returned from a foreign land, where they had dwelt with a strange people, they ought, by Hindu. custom, to have been treated as outcasts and their very shadows shunned. Instead, when it was known that the distinguished young Hindu doctor had reached her early home, old and young,

orthodox and unorthodox, it is said, came to pay friendly visits and to extend a cordial welcome. Even the reformers were astounded when the papers eulogizing her said, "We ought as a people to do something that will remind us of her and bear witness forever to her wondrous virtues; in our opinion, this debt of gratitude to Anandibai cannot be better discharged than by providing a lady who will be willing to study medicine, with all the pecuniary aid necessary. Thus may the memory of the late distinguished lady be perpetuated."

To appreciate the strength of Doctor Joshee's desire to elevate her country women, one must realize their degraded condition. A son is the most coveted of all blessings that a Hindu craves; but if a daughter is born, the father coolly announces, that "nothing is born into his family, by which expression it is understood that the child is a girl. Female infanticide is so Female infanticide is so largely practised that the census returns of 1881 show that there are fewer women than men in India by over five millions. A familiar blessing invoked upon young girls by the elders and priests, is, "May'st thou have eight sons, and may thy husband survive thee!" The earlier the act of giving the daughter in marriage, the greater is the merit, for thereby the parents are entitled to rich rewards in heaven. Eight years is the minimum, and twelve years of age the maximum marriageable age for a high caste girl. After marriage, she is a kind of impersonal being. She can have no merit or quality of her own. Their sacred writings declare, that "Whatever be the qualities of the man with whom a woman is united in lawful marriage, such qualities even she assumes, like a river united with the ocean." There is one redeeming point, although the woman is looked upon as an inferior being, the honor bestowed upon the mother is without parallel in any other country. One of the great commandments of the Hindu scriptures is, "Let thy mother be to thee like unto a god!" But this has a reverse side, for the scriptures further say, "Day and night, women must be kept in subjection. and dependence by the males of their families." She is forbidden to read the sacred scriptures, or to pronounce a single syllable out of them. She is never to be trusted, and matters of importance are never to be committed to her. She is the property of her husband, and is classed with cows and camels.

But the worst and most dreaded period of a high caste woman's life is widowhood. Throughout India it is regarded as the punish

ment for a horrible crime, or, crimes committed in a former existence upon earth. Self-immolation, by the terrible custom called Suttee, has been prohibited by English law since 1844. But though widows are not burned on the funeral pile, their fate is scarcely less horrible. They are deprived of every ornament, and of all the things they love to have about them. The heads of all widows must be shaved every fortnight, and a Hindu woman thinks it worse than death to lose her beautiful hair. Girls of fourteen and fifteen, who hardly know the reason why they are so cruelly deprived of everything they like, hide their faces in dark corners, as if they had done something shameful, or criminal. The widow must wear a single coarse garment, white, red, or brown. She must eat only one meal in the twenty-four hours. She must never take part in family feasts or pleasures. A widow is called an "inauspicious thing." It is unlucky to behold a widow's face before seeing any other object in the morning. A man will postpone his journey if his path happens to be crossed by a widow at the time of his departure. There is not a day of her life that she is not cursed, as the cause of the death of their beloved friend. In short, her life is made as intolerable as possible. Her days, destitute of knowledge or hope, empty of all pleasure, are a perpetual martyrdom.

The ignorance of the women of India is dense. Indeed, it is a popular belief among high caste women, that it is a shame for a young woman or girl to hold a paper or book in her hand, and that their husbands will die if they should read, or hold a pen in their fingers. The fear of becoming a widow overcomes the hunger and thirst for knowledge, naturally.

Doctor Joshee's success shows they are capable of receiving education, and if representative women, like Anandibai, and her kinswoman, Ramabai, will fit themselves to teach by precept and example their fellow-country women, they may be made the equals of any women in any civilized countries.

"ORIGINALITY in writing has had its day. Nobody but a quack will strain for it. The best any one can do is to make the trail a little plainer for others to follow."

« PreviousContinue »