- The Indian Ladies' Magazine, 1901–1938: From Raj to Swaraj by Deborah Anna Logan
Deborah Logan's most recent book offers the first sustained scholarly examination of the Indian Ladies' Magazine, a periodical edited by an Indian woman and aimed at Indian women readers, with some contributions from British and American writers. Logan's book provides an immensely valuable resource for literary scholars and historians interested in women's magazines, transatlanticism, and empire. This extensive consideration maps the history of the magazine in its cultural, social, and political milieux. Taking a transatlantic focus allows Logan to chart the flows between the Indian subcontinent and Britain during the magazine's long but truncated run. The magazine, which was published from 1901 to 1938, with a hiatus between 1918 and 1927, is clearly not a Victorian one. Yet Logan makes a case for the importance of this magazine in the lineage of Victorian periodicals by tracing the hefty influence of Victorian England—and indeed, Victoria herself—on the magazine's political persuasion, contributors, and editor, Kamala Satthianadhan. [End Page 754]
The book is divided into eight chapters, each attending to a different context in which the magazine was situated. The first chapter provides a brief history of English women's magazines, before offering a substantive history of Indian women's magazines. Logan articulates how the growth of periodical publishing contributed to the empire's political instability during the time the Indian Ladies' Magazine was published. Along with several other Indian periodicals aimed at women readers, the Indian Ladies' Magazine was a major force in encouraging women's education and literacy efforts across the country. As the "first Indian women's English-language publication edited by a woman," its very existence was testament to the changing role of women in India's literary sphere (30). However, what Logan explains so well are the tensions between the changing ideals of Indian womanhood and Victorian gender roles, as exemplified by the Angel of the House and the New Woman. She demonstrates how Satthianadhan negotiated these tensions both in her editorials and in her choice of content, defining both as a panacea to the modern, feminist undertaking of a woman-edited, mostly woman-written magazine.
Chapters two and three address the literary aspects of the magazine. The second chapter investigates how Victorian ideals of womanhood were included in the Indian Ladies' Magazine, particularly through articles analysing Tennyson's The Princess, John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies, and Coventry Patmore's The Angel of the House. British authors were commonly featured, and Logan shows how articles like "Tennyson's Ideal of Womanhood" and "Ruskin on Women by an Indian Lady" created a dialogue with the British literary sphere. Criticism of Indian literature was also a key feature of the magazine. Logan describes how some contributors were vocal in "claiming the superiority of the East over West" (51). This priority of Eastern texts paved the way for Indian contributors to write back to England, countering romanticized versions of India and its religious and cultural practices long before Edward Said coined the term "orientalism" (51).
The third chapter offers examples of Indian poets, journalists, philosophers, playwrights, and novelists whose contributions to the Indian Ladies' Magazine reveal links between the literary sphere and political conversations happening during the transition from colony to independence, from raj to swaraj. In her examination of literary works, Logan demonstrates that it was not simply the magazine's structure that countered the typical male-dominated periodical culture of its time; she shows how the editor carefully chose pieces that were not overtly political yet supported the feminist aims of the magazine.
Chapters four, five, and six are dedicated to the overt political work undertaken by women in India and documented in the Indian Ladies' Magazine. Chapter four focuses on women's social activism, which aligns with [End Page 755] the campaigning undertaken by Victorian women. Logan highlights how the Indian Ladies' Magazine differs from other magazines of the period in its coverage of not only the lives...