ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gendering Sports in Colonial Bengal

The early 20th century witnessed important shifts in the Bengali Hindu elite’s images of women’s public role. The number of educated women increased even if it was within the limited domain of urban communities. The “games ethics” influenced the women and it was placed in the broader perspective of their emancipation. Different schools and colleges with their motto of holistic education and the contemporary magazines highlighted the importance of women’s health for future motherhood. Their role in the sporting field remained gendered and female agency in this sphere had to negotiate with forms of patriarchy.

The Census of 1911 (Calcutta) highlighted the remarkable replacement of joint family system by the nuclear families in Kolkata, erstwhile Calcutta. Even though the urban elite accepted the idea of considering wife not as a “property,” but as a “wife,” their identity was tied to her husband as a companion (Dutt and Sarkar 2010: 214). This sentiment produced a new trend in the larger context of valorisation of motherhood by nationalists.

As elsewhere in India, in Bengal also the nationalist ideology and its movement made motherhood central to maintaining an orderly home for the new woman. With the change in the conjugal relationship between the husband and wife, the wife was seen more as a true companion of her husband. The wives often wished to live up to such expectations. The educated husband frequently appeared in the role of teachers (Raychaudhuri 1999: 83). The removal of the purdah system also brought a few women to the forefront. Satyen Tagore created a sensation by taking his wife out in an open carriage (Raychaudhuri 1999: 84).

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Updated On : 13th Sep, 2017
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