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Copy of Feminism and Imperialism

Questions to ponder whilst you read:

  • To what extent did the imperial context shape feminism in Britain?
  • Was first wave feminism concerned only with the rights of white women?
  • Could British feminism be said to have ‘benefitted’ from imperialism?
  • How did British women interact with Indian women?

Preparatory Activity

Using the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography research one of the following activists and consider how their campaigns were affected by imperialism:

List to choose from:
  • Annie Besant
  • Josephine Butler
  • Sarala Devi Chaudhurani
  • Subhadra Kumari Chaudhan
  • Clara Codd
  • Sophia Duleep Singh
  • Kadambi Ganguly
  • Alison Garland
  • Eleanor Layton
  • Muriel Lester
  • Edith How Martin
  • Katherine Mayo
  • Sarojini Naidu
  • Margaret Noble
  • Lolita Roy
  • Frances Swiney

Core Reading

A. Burton, Burdens of History. British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915 (1994) ebook (chapter 3 - Harprit, Charlie; chapter 5 - Ateeqa, Emily)

C. Midgley, ‘Anti-Slavery and the Roots of “Imperial Feminism”’, in C. Midgley (ed.), Gender and Imperialism (1998), pp.161-179 digitised (Megan, Tamyla)

Further Reading

Section B ‘Women, Politics and Empire’, in A. Burton (ed.), Politics and Empire in Victorian Britain

‘Introduction’ plus choose 2 readings, in P. Tuson (ed.) The Queen’s Daughters: An Anthology of Victorian Feminist Writing on India (1995)

Frances Swiney, Our Indian Sisters (1914) [available as part of digitised MRC documents]

Leaflet Advertising the Indian Female Evangelist (1880) [available as part of digitised MRC documents]


A. McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (1995) [esp. Introduction]

C. Midgley, ‘Can Women’s Be Missionaries? Envisioning Female Agency in the Early Nineteenth-Century British Empire’, Journal of British Studies 45:2 (2006), 335-358

C. Midgley, Feminism and Empire. Women Activists in Imperial Britain, 1790-1865 (London ad New York: Routledge, 2007)

C. Midgley, ‘From Supporting Missions to Petitioning Parliament: British Women and the Evangelical Campaign against Sati in India, 1813-30’, in K. Gleadle and S. Richardson (eds.), Women in British Politics 1760-1860. The Power of the Petticoat (2000), pp.74-92

G. Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in C. Nelson and L. Grossberg, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (1988) [Also widely available online if you google. Don’t worry if you find this tough – it is – but also worth it as a significant theoretical piece which underpins much of the historical writing on this subject.]

J. De Groot, ‘Feminism in Another Language: Learning from Feminist Histories of Iran and/or from Histories of Iranian ‘Feminism’ Since 1830’, in Women: A Cultural Review Special Issue: Rethinking the History of Feminism 21:3 (2010), 251-265

C. Bressey, ‘Victorian Anti-Racism and Feminism in Britain’, Women: A Cultural Review Special Issue: Rethinking the History of Feminism 21:3 (2010), 279-291.

P. Anagol, ‘Indian Christian Women and Indigenous Feminism c.1850-c.1920’, in K. Offen (ed.), Globalising Feminisms 1789-1945 (2010), pp.96-110

Catherine Hall, ‘Introduction’ to Civilising Subjects, in S. Morgan (ed.), The Feminist History Reader, pp.339-359