restricted access Christianity, Reform, and the Reconstitution of Gender: The Case of Pandita Mary Ramabai

In nineteenth-century India, Hindu social and religious reformers, Western missionaries, British colonial rulers, and, later, Indian Nationalists used education as a means by which to re-form and recast India’s upper-caste/class women. Segments of the indigenous society feared that doing so would disrupt existing ways. While the first generation of these educated women confirmed some suspicions, others allayed some fears. The most radical of these educated nineteenth-century women was Pandita Mary Ramabai. A Christian convert whose “heretical” questioning and practice of her adopted religion brought her in conflict with the Anglican Church, she headed a self-sufficient community of women, experimenting with new, enabling modes of femininity. Refusing to fit into any religious or gender frame, Ramabai straddled the new spaces available to women, giving them fresh contours and complicated late nineteenth-century ways of looking at the “women’s question” in India.