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(1881 –1931)

Vibhuti Patel


HISTORY: GENDER PERSPECTIVES” on March 22-23, 2001 and organised by the
department of P.G. Studies and Research, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai-400020.)


Visibility of women’s paid and unpaid work in the history writings gained legitimacy in the
mainstream academic discourse as a result of, both, pressure from the women’s movement
and as a result of reconstruction of HERSTORY by the researchers. In Gujarat, this process
began in the 19th century due to social reform movement. Examination of census reports,
surveys, civil registers, administrative and legislative records, parliamentary debates and
resolutions, speeches of trade union and caste leaders make us understand the political
economy that provided the matrix of the dominant discourse among English knowing civil
servants, politicians and male social reformers. Here, the native women are visible in some
statistical records of different occupations, case histories, legal debates and records on
migration, housing and health. These sources rarely captured either female perceptions or
societal perception of women’s role in the family, factory or in the field. Gujarati literature
comprising booklets, leaflets, pamphlets, journals as well as short stories, novels, poems and
collections of folk-songs called Garbavalis1 preserved at the India Office library, London
provided valuable insights on Gujarati women’s economic contribution in the colonial
period. By drawing on this material, I hope to illuminate some of the usually hidden aspects
Acknowledgements: This is a revised, shortened and updated version of a research report prepared (as one of
the contributions) as a visiting fellow at the Development Studies Institute of the London School of Economics
and Political Science. The author would like to thank the librarians of Oriental and India Office library (OIOC),
the British Library and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) for their courteous behaviour; Prof.
John Harris, Dr. Tanika Sarkar, Dr. Erica Burman, Dr. Ian Parkar and Dr. Dorothy Stein for their comments and
helpful Suggestions and Prof. Ghanshyam Shah, Centre for Social Studies, Surat for awarding the visiting
fellowship to pursue this work in 1993-94.

Garba represents a popular and traditional form of folk-songs in Gujarat. Garbo or Garbi in singular and its
plural “Garba” mean song/songs sung by women for celebration of a fertility festival at the harvest time. They
are adapted from word “Garbha” which means foetus. A Garbi is a porous earthen pot with innumerable holes
in it. Before singing songs, an oil lamp in a tiny earthern pot is kept inside a Garbi signifying the
commemoration of bounteous mother Goddesses. During the 2nd half of the 19th century, many individuals, caste
organisations and social reformers started compiling traditional Garba and some of them wrote new Garba. The
OIOC has nearly one hundred compilations of Garba published in Gujarati script and in a booklet form. The
Garbas of Brahminical traditions are in “refined” Gujarati and and the garbas of non-brahminical legacies are in
“rustic” Gujarati. Different caste organisations published their own Garbavalis. The Parsi community also
published several compilations of Garba in Parsee Gujarati. Often, a Garbo or Garbi is preceded or ended with a
Duho, a couplet conveying the central message of the content.

of women’s contribution in the labour processes in the subsistence sector which used pre-
capitalist (feudal, serf, slave) mode of surplus extraction, in the home-based work controlled
by male traders/agents, women in the service sector as teachers and nurses and in a gradually
growing market economy based on wage-labour capital relations.

The Nature, Magnitude and Pattern of Rural-Urban Migration:

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the rural – urban migration of women in the western
region of the Bombay Presidency (known as Gujarat) grew as a result of exhaustion of the
local rural resources. Poor people from the rural areas of Gujarat, predominantly from the
artisan caste-vankars , the untouchable castes- dheds and wagris, the agriculturist-kanbis and
the muslim artisans started migrating to the newly developing urban centres. 2 The impact of
repeated famines on the poor masses is aptly represented in a Duho in a Gujarati short story
about the woes of two sisters:

Life is miserable without food and water

Because of this pain-inflicting famine.
People are dying of hunger
Children are swallowed by devilish death.3

This vivid description of deprivation is corroborated by a statement in the same booklet,

“The people were so desperate for food that they would look for eatables in the garbage and
even beg for osaman4*.”

Between 1893 and 1903, “a series of disastrous crop failures which at times reached serious
famine proportions”5 intensified the process of immeserisation and pauperisation of the rural
proletariat. This is aptly narrated in these words:

“Appalling poverty, his hut is seldom rethached, his wife is clothed in rags, his little children
go without clothing, of furniture he has none, an old blanket is quite a luxury in the cold
weather and if his children can tend cattle or his wife can do some work to eak out income,
he considers himself happy.”6

A booklet in Gujarati, “an Unmarried Girl”, dedicated to cause of social reform, portrays a
grim picture of repeated occurance of famines in Gujarat, leading to mass starvation through
emergence of the practice of selling girls (in Gujarati, it is called Kanyavikraya ).7
Report of the Indian Factory Commission, 1890, p. 64.
Hargovind Dwarkadas Kantawala, Be Behno Athawa Ek Gharsansari Varta (Khass Streemandal ne Maate)
Two sisters or A story of Domestic Affairs [Specially for Women’s Council], ii edition. 1894.
Ibid. pp. 1-2.
*In a traditional method of cooking , rice is cooked in a large quantity of water and once the rice is properly
cooked, it is strained and the remaining extra water , known as Osaman is generally thrown away.
Dharma Kumar and Meghanad Desai (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume 2, C. 1757-
C. 1970, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983, p. 82.
Romesh Dutt, The economic History of India-In the Victorian Age, From the Accession of Queen Victoria in
1837 to the Commencement of the 20th Century, Burt Franklin, Vol.II, New York, 1970, p. 606.
Bhavanishankar Narsinghram, Kunvari Kanya ( An Unmarried Girl), Ahmedabad, 1903, pp. 1-12. The author
has also provided a title of the same booklet in English as follows: The Hindu Domestic Life.

Declining income from land, labour and crafts forced men to look for work opportunities in
the expanding urban sector. A Garba of that time in rustic Gujarati, describes the pain of a
working class wife as a result of her separation from her husband caused by migration. In one
Garbi, the wife labels her husband’s job in the city as her ‘enemy’. She says, “You are in
love with your wage- slavery, while I am in love with your life.”8 Another Garbi expresses a
wife’s anger against her husband’s second wife namely ‘his job in the city’. Here, she
requests her father-in-law not to allow her husband to go away to earn money.9 In the same
page, there is another Garbi that depicts the miserable condition of a wife who refuses to eat
any food, becomes physically weak and refuses to adorn herself in the absence of her
husband who has migrated to the city for work.

Epidemics like plague forced many rural toilers to migrate from their native place. 10 Another
important factor that contributed to the increase of female migration was the indebtedness of
the urban male workers, which was so great that many were not able to send money to their
family members in the native place. As a result, women members of their households had to
follow them to join factories against all hurdles, leaving their children behind.11 At the same
time, the demand for Indian labour had also increased dramatically in other British colonies.
In 1904, the majority of the Transveal Commission, appointed to evaluate the supply of
indigenous labour, recommended that 129,000 additional workers were needed at once and
more than 300,000 would be needed in the subsequent five years.12 The Transveal
Commission found BRITISH WORKMEN* costlier than the coloured labour. A summary of
Alfred Emmott’s paper on “Cotton Growing in the British Empire” highlights the need ‘to
attract some of our Indian fellow subjects to settle’ in other colonies of the Empire namely
Sudan, Uganda, British Central Africa, Rhodesia, British West Indies, British Guiana and
British Honduras.13 Consequently, in the beginning of the 20th century, a large mass of the
working poor of Gujarat migrated abroad to work as coolies. At the same time a section of
the middle class from Ahmedabad, Baroda and Saurashtra-Kutch (Hindus and muslims)
migrated either to set up business or for administrative work of the British Empire in

Statistical Profile of Women Workers in the Bombay Presidency

See a collection of folk-songs in Gujarati collected by Ranajitram Vavabhai Mehta;: Popular Garbi and Other
Miscelleneous Songs, Ranajit Smarak Samiti, Surat, 1922. These songs capture different life situations and
activities of women and give moral sermons for ideal womanhood that lies in Sati Dharma (i.e. the code of
conduct of life governed by purity, chastity and loyalty to one’s husband. The book is dedicated to the memory
of Late Shantaben who followed Sati Dharma and died in a short time after her husband’s death.” P. 127.
Ibid., p.129.
The Voice of India- India Spectator and Champion, ( henceforth IS), 10- 11- 1906.
See Janet Harvey Kelman, Labour in India- A Study of the Conditions of Indian Women in the Modern
Industry, George Allen and Unwin, 1923, p.96.
IS, 23 April, 1904.
* The Transveal Commission Report acknowledges the identity of the British workman only, though the British
working class constituted an important part of the industrial labour force in Great Britain. For the Commission,
men and women workers of the colonies meant nothing but an anonymous mass of ‘yellow, brown and black’
labour that could be dispatched anywhere and under any circumstances.
IS, 23 April, 1904.
IS, 10 November 1906.

In its instruction to the enumerators about identification of workers, the 1891 Census of India
stated, “Only such persons are to be shown in this column as actually do work contributing to
the family income. Mere employment in such domestic occupations as spinning will not
entitle women to be shown in this column, unless produce of their labour is regularly brought
to the market.”15 This definitional bias continued in the Census Reports of 1901, 1911, 1921
and 1931.

Table – I
Census of Workers Non-working dependents
Males Females
1931 289 103 608
1921 315 131 554
Source: Census of India, 1931, VIII, Bombay, p-242

More than half of the female workforce classified as Non-working Dependents is because of
the census definition which did not include unpaid family work as work.

Occupational Classification of workers No of male No of females
in 1000s in 1000s
Traders in bamboos and canes 1 3
Other unclassified non-productive industries 17 74
Procurers and prostitutes 3 8
Midwives etc. 2 4
Rice pounders, etc. 2 3
Traders in fuel 9 10
Traders in wood 3 3
Wool Carders 10 10
Production & transmission of physical force 2 2
Basket makers, etc. 17 16
Silk spinners & weavers etc. 3 3
Grain parchers 2 2
Source: Census of India, 1931, VIII, Bombay, p. 253

This table includes “women who earn money by occupations independent of their husbands,
such as spinning, selling firewood, cow-dung cakes, grass or by rice-pounding, weaving or
doing housework for wages.”16

Table 3: % of Females per 100 males

(Earners and Working Dependents by Disrtricts and Major States)

Census of India, 1891, pp.88-90.
Ibid.,pp 88-90.

District Proportion of female per
100 males
Ahmedabad 37
Broach 52
Kaira 36
Panchmahals 67
Surat 53
Source: Census of India, 1931, VIII, Bombay, p.253

Districts with high tribal population, namely Broach, Panchmahal and Surat had more than
half of their women reported as earners and working dependents as compared with their male
counterparts. They were also subsistence crop producing districts. While Ahmedabad and
Kaira which had well-defined caste-based social division of labour had nearly 1/3 rd of
women as earners and working dependents as compared with their male counterparts. These
districts attained agrarian prosperity by shifting to cash crop production, mainly tobacco and

Table-4: Selected Occupations of Women in the Bombay Presidency

Occupation Proportion of Females
per 1000 males
Total 357
Production of Raw Materials 406
Exploitation of Animals and Vegetation 406
Pasture and Agriculture 406
Cultivation 418
Cultivation of Special crops and fruits 285
Forestry 1263
Stock raising 151
Fishing and hunting 346
Exploitation of minerals 540
Non-metallic minerals 640
Preparation & supply of material substances 203
Industry 246
Textile 333
a. Cotton ginning, cleaning & processing 159
b. cotton spinning, sizing and weaving 322
c. Rope, twine, string and other fibres 527
d. wool carding, spinning and weaving 932
Source- Census of India, 1931, Vol. VIII, pp. 278-279

According to The Annual Factory Report , 1905 of the Presidency of Bombay, there were
43,456 women and 7917 children working in factories under the operation of the Factories
Act. In Ahmedabad, there were 38 factories. Within a year, the number of factories under the
operation of the act increased from 432 to 455 in the Presidency. Out of them, 367 were the
cotton mills, of which 231 were seasonal and 136 were perennial. More than half of the

female work force in the industrial sector were engaged in the cotton spinning industry.17
Between 1883 and 1902, the number of cleaning and pressing mills for cotton employing
women and children had increased from 496 and 774. 18

Table-5: Occupation or Means of Livelihood (in 1000s)

District Actual Workers Total Partially Agriculturist
Men Women Men Women
Ahmedabad 734 45 12 -
Panchmahal 345 184 11 1
Surat 99 33 12 2
Source: Part A – General Tables, Census of India, 1931, Vol. VIII,p. 318

This table reveals increasing concentration and centralisation of land and the agricultural
resources and proletarianisation of the agrarian population.

Table-6 (i): Census of India, 1931, Vol. XIX

Name of Caste Proportion of Female Workers
per 1000 men in Baroda
Prabhu 60
Vania 119
Saiyad 185
Luhana 206
Brahman 291
Lewa Patidar 335
Parsi 396
Maratha 410
Rajput 416
Vaghri 739
Thakarda 750
Chodhra 903
Vankar 944
Source- Census of India, 1931, Vol. XIX, p. 245

Caste- wise classification of women workers as revealed in the above table conveys that the
changes in the economic reality forced women of all classes to join the workforce. Erosion of
the support from the extended family and the kinship and caste networks due to diversion of
human and material- financial resources for formal education of the upper caste children
forced female headed households to allow/ force even the upper caste women and girls to
join the labour force. By 1931, thousands of Vania, Brahman, Lewa Patidar, Luvana , Rajput
women and purdah-nasheen saiyed women had reported themselves to be workers. It is
noteworthy that in Baroda, 396 parsee women per 1000 parsee men were reported as
workers, not a single Christian woman is enlisted as worker.

IS, 14 July 1906.
The Voice of India- India Spectator and Champion, (henceforth IS), 16- 1- 1904.

Table-6 (ii): Occupational Profile of Women Workers in Baroda
Items Female Index of Working
Dependents (per 1000 males)
All Occupations 4631
Cultivation 5987
Pasturage 1700
Industry 2743
Transport 780
Trade 1140
Source- Census of India, 1931, p. 243

Table 6(ii) signifies that Women in Baroda were making economic contribution in 5
important sectors of the economy, namely- agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, transport
and trade under the supervision and guidance of the male heads of the households or under
the control of matriarch as home-based workers. This is corroborated by the folk sources as
well as the social reformers’ discourse, as will be seen in the subsequent sections.

Table-6 (iii): Subsidiary Occupations

Sex Number per mile of earners only among
Agriculturist who show some non- Non-agriculturist who show
agricultural occupation as subsidiary agriculture as subsidiary
Male 65 121
Female 20 36
Both 54 99
Source- Census of India, 1931, Page-253

This table is extremely important to understand the relationship between agricultural and
non-agricultural sector. Educated women opted for occupational diversification and
establishment of economic stakes in more than one occupation to ensure security in the midst
of rapid economic and political changes. Women earners were making investments in shares
and securities to deal with crisis period due to fear of prostitution.

Women in the Labour Process- The most popular work related songs sung routinely, on a
daily basis while doing household work or grain-food processing work were known as
KHAYANAGEET (KHAYANA means pounding). They were also sung while hand-
spinning, hand- grinding, pounding, extracting oil from oil-seeds like groundnut, sesme
seeds, in a lilting style. Choral songs sung while sowing and harvesting are robust.
Songs sung by road-workers (both men and women) to get rid of boredom generated
due to monotonous and arduous task have not been documented.

We will start our discourse with the INVISIBLE WOMEN. Garba depicting message to a
grand-father by his married grand-daughter is popular to this date. Depiction of plight
of daughter-in-law doing drudgery-prone tasks of bringing fuel, fodder and water at
odd hours, grinding during the day and spinning at night is known as Dada O Dikari.

A collection of Garba published by the Alfred Drama Company , specially intended for
young school- going girls, describes women’s involvement in the agrarian labour processes.
One of them narrates their part in sowing of wheat, weeding, winnowing, selling it and
buying salt in exchange, cleaning and grinding grain and finally, making rotali, thin round
bread. In another Garabo, a village woman named Dharani is teased by her friends in this

Kudos to Dharani for sowing cumin in a basket

Now , Madam is going out to sell it.19

Songs sung while pounding, plucking weeds, cutting grass, winnowing and grinding grain
touch wide range of women’s life experiences- workload, age-wise distribution of work
among different women in the household. Bickering about who earns how much and advise
to women. A garbo advising a widow whose name is Parvati tries to convince her of the
advantage of establishing an independent household rather than leading a life of humiliation
and neglect at the hands of her brother and sister-in-law. 20

A woman who cuts grass relates her experiences (which have an element of fantasy), in the
following words:

My sickle is made of genuine gold

Its handle is diamond- studded
WE both go together to cut grass

He cuts only 4 bales of grass while I cut 10 to 20.

I helped my husband to put his load over his head
He left me alone when my turn came
O sojourner, my brother
Please help me put my bale on my head.21

This 19th century garba was one of the popular secular songs sung at the time of Navratri, a
festival of Garba dance. This Garba provides a testimony of ‘subjugated knowledge’ that is
able to withstand the historic weight of patriarchal discourse. Collection of folksongs in
Gujarati by Jhaverchand Meghani , 22a noted poet of Gujarat has provided a modern version
of garba which replaces diamong-studdeed sickle made of pure gold with a sickle made by a
blacksmith named Lalio (reddish) symbolising influence of communist revolutionaries in
rural Gujarat and provides more detailed description of the labour processes.

My sickle weighs two and a quarter pounds

It was made by a blacksmith named Lalio
O my beloved, now I will not go to cut grass.

My husband brings only 5 bales of grass, while I bring 10 or 20 bales. O my…….

Popular Garbi, Alfred Drama Company, p.34.
ibid., p.44.
Jhaverchand Meghani: Radhiali Raat (Beautiful Night), Vol. 1,2,3,4) 1925-1926.

My husband brings home 4 annas per day,
While I bring Rs. One and a half everyday. O my……

My husband brought one cup of millet, while I brought 20 k.g. of wheat.O my…….
My husband was bothered about filling his own belly
While I fed my brother. O my……..

I helped my husband to put his load over his head,

He left me alone when my turn came. O my………

On the way I spotted sojourner and requested him :

“My brother, please help me put my bale on my head”.23

This changed version of the Garba with earthy touch is sung to this date by all –the
mainstream as well as the social movement singers of Gujarat and Gujaratis settled all over
the world.

There are several Garbas narrating women’s involvement in cotton-spinning activities. One
of them states:

We both, mother and daughter spun cotton

And gave it to the weaver.24

Yet another Garbo in the form of a dialogue between mother-in-law (M-L) and a daughter-
in-law (D-L) describes the production relations in these words:

A mother-in-law and her Daughter-in-law are working at the spinning wheel

While spinning, M-L asked: “O my D-L, show me your cotton”
D-L replied: “I have already spun it”
M-L asked: “O my D-L, show me your thread”
D-L responded: “I have already given it to a threader”25

A garba reveals the home-based and manual nature of cotton-spinning by women in the last
quarter of the 19th century, but by the 1920s, the process was mechanised. Gujarat was the
first region to experience the mechanised methods of spinning and weaving cotton. The
changing forms in the division of labour and wider economic processes redefined the role of
women in the production process and society.26 Gujarati women were inducted into the
ginning mills on a seasonal basis, which employed them for three to six months. This
arrangement was considered ‘advantageous’ to women as it left ‘her free to keep in touch
with home life, to follow agricultural pursuits.”27

This version of Garba is included in an audio-cassette of Garba produced by VACHA women’s library, BMC
School, Tank Lane, Opp. Akbarallys, Santacruz (W), Mumbai-400054. Phone- 6713469, 6055523.
Popular Garbi, 1922.
Jane Lewis, “ The Debate on Sex and Class”, New Left Review, No. 149, Jan.-Feb. 1985, pp.108-120.
Kelman, 1923, p.67.

Kelman gave a profile of women workers in ginning mills:

“In the upper story of the factory, a bench about four feet high runs along either side of the
shed, broken at each exit to the platforms. These benches are piled with kapas (cotton) at the
back, and on them, in front of the cotton, the women, some with clothes over their mouths,
sit cross-legged, each with a little stick. In front of each one is an oblong box with sides
sloping inwards from above, in which a large roller revolves. Into this box, she feeds
handfuls of cotton from the pile behind her, and moves it right and left wihin the box with
her hands and the stick, to keep it evenly distributed.”28

Women employed for hand-reeling were paid by piece rate because it was thought
favourable to give them flexibility in working hours. A committee of specialists who made a
thorough enquiry approved of the system because it allowed women workers to come when
they liked and to go when they liked. It commented,

“Men and women in Indian factories do not compete for the same employment. In the few
instances of some mills in the Upper India, when men and women are employed side by side
in the reeling room, we have come across a number of instances where women, in spite of
their restricted hours, made more money by piece work than their fellow male reelers.”29

In the proceedings of the 16th meeting of the Factory Commission on 16th October, 1890 at
the Gujarat Spinning and Weaving Company’s Mill in Ahmedabad, the Commission noted
that many women were employed in work usually performed by men. While commenting on
working hours, the factory Commission report stated:

“This work is done while machinery is moving and therefore women work the same hours as
the men. The manager, when asked how the work could be done if the women were limited
to 11 hours’ work as proposed in the new Bill, said there would be no alternative, but to
dispense with women and take on adult male labourers in their place. The Commission
satisfies themselves that no other course is left to mill owners in regard to this point, and the
proposed legislation would inflict serious injury on a number of women who seem to be
anxious to earn a livelihood by this work and who would consider it a great handicap if
deprived of it by legislation”.30

Women workers were under threat of dismissal if they complained about working conditions,
the workload or the long hours of work. Most women workers told the Commission that their
work did not tire them. The Commission acknowledged the housework performed by women
worker in this remark:

“His wife, who may have been awake before him, is by this time concluding the cooking of
their day’s meal, which she must have commenced an hour before, if she is a factory

ibid. , p. 67.
Indian Textile Journal (henceforth ITJ), Vol. XIX. No. 218, pp. 55-57. 1890.
ITJ, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp.58-61, 1890.
ITJ, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 37 , 1890.

Glimpses in the life of Dhunie (meaning moody), the daughter of Jassoo*, a 28 year old
textile worker employed for about 7 years in a mill in Ahmedabad, provides a general profile
of women workers in the industrial workforce in the 1890s. Dhunie’s life-sketch is based on
her submission to the Enquiry Committee of specialists appointed by the Indian Factory
Labour Commission on 16th October 1890.32

The Story of Dhunie

Dhunie came from a landless and poor family. She migrated to Ahmedabad city from a
village in Ahmedabad district in search of paid work. She got a job in the same mill as her
husband. She had two daughters, only one of whom survived. She lived with her husband
and her three year old daughter. Her wage-rate was Rs. 1-12 every eight days. Her husband
was paid Rs. 2 or 3 per week of 8 days. They were always in debt and were unable to save
anything. Usually Sunday was her day-off but if a festival holiday fell during the week, they
worked on Sundays that week. Sometimes on her free days she visited her relatives in the
village. Everyday she got up at 5 p.m. and finished her morning chores, including the
preparation of lunch-boxes for her husband and herself before her departure for her wage
work. She walked from home to the mill, distance of about ¾ mile. She returned home at
6.30 p.m. having had half an hour break during the day. She left the mill at 6 p.m. On her
way home, she did her marketing. She cooked bread only once- when she returned home
from work at night. When Dhunie’s child was small, she could not work as she had no one to
look after her, but when her daughter began to walk, she left her daughter home and took up
this work.

This profile brings out several issues – double burden of wage-work and house-work faced
by women workers, 12 hours’ work, unequal wages for male and female workers, strong ties
of rural and urban proletariat in the presidency, absence of transport facility, need for crèche
& canteen providing fresh meal.

Gendering of the Working Class: In the Indian Textile Journal, the stereotype of a worker
or mill operative is ‘male, hindu and polygamous’. A narrative on a working class family
starts with, ‘he and his wife or wives’. Worker is always HE and referred to as ‘workman’ or
‘millhand’. References to the working class woman highlighted her role as ‘ a home-maker’
and ‘a child-bearer’. Home based work was seen as one of the multiple roles of women.
Women workers were seen as an auxiliary labour force to be used in a phase of expansion
and later on dispensed with – not only from the work-force but also from the labour force.
Payment of wages by piecework to women workers was justified by the commission on the
ground that it would give them opportunities to attend to their household duties and nursing
their babies.33

* In the Commission’s report the women workers were introduced as their mother’s daughters as in the earlier
phase of industrialisation in Gujarat (1875-1935), when women workers retired , either their daughters or their
daughers-in-law got the first preference to replace them. In the later period of heavy mechanisation and
rationalisation, the retired women workers were replaced by their sons or sons-in-law. For detailed account of
the phenomenon, see Renana Jhabwala, Closing Door, Self Employed Women’s Association, Ahmedabad,
Indian Textile Journal, Vol.1, No. 3, pp. 58-61.
Indian Textile Journal, Vol. XIX, No. 218, pp.55-57.

“Whatever may be the hours of starting or stopping of a mill may be, women seldom turn up
before 7 and seldom stay at their work after 6. This gives them time both in the morning and
evening to attend to their household duties.”34

In response to industrial modernisation and marginalisation of women from the workforce,

the Committee appointed by the Government of India recommended that the industrial
training should be given to ‘fit young men for employment in the larger industries which
require abundant capital and technical skill of high order.’35 Women workers were always
classified as ‘unskilled labourers’ and were given less wages than both skilled and unskilled
male workers.36 Unlike the European woking class women of the time who were given skill
training to handle modern machineries, there are no evidence of native working class women
being chosen for skill training.

Gujarati printed literature and the cultural production in the oral tradition 37 is full of gendered
ideology. They define women’s role as mothers, daughters and economically dependent
daughter-in-law in the economy of household and their filial and maternal duties. Several
proverbs popular among the working class treat a wife as an easily dispensable object, glorify
the beating of women and convey the idea that a mother should be respected, while the wife
should be controlled. Some of the proverbs in the publication by Jijibhoy Pestonji Mistry,
1903 are as follows:

‘A wife is like the grass shoes on one’s feet,

if one pair is left, another is put on.’

Millet, Bajra, Woman, buffalo, child

The more they are beaten, the better they be.

Wife is interested in husband’s income,

Mother is interested in her son’s arrival.

Frequent mention of “purity and chastity as the most important virtues of women” and “Duty
of wife to uphold husband’s authority” in several proverbs are repeated in the writings and
statements of the benevolent patriarchs sphere-heading social reform movement of the 19th

Indian Textile Journal, Vol. XIX, No. 218, pp. 55-57.
India Spectator, 10 May 1913.
Girish Vakil, ‘Gujaratini Streeonu Jeevan ane Temno Arthic Vyavahar’ (Profile of Women in Gujarat and
their Economic Activities’), Shree Gujarati Farbers Sabha: Traimasik, Book III, No. 3, October- December,
For detailed account on portrayal of women in Gujarati literature in the beginning of the 20th century, see
M.W. Taylor, Selections From Modern Gujarati Author, Irish Presbyterian Mission Press, Surat, 1905 and
Collection of Proverbs in Gujarati by Jijibhoy Pestanji Mistry, 1903.

Social Reform Movement in Gujarat

Essays and moral sermons of the westernised social reformers and the officials supported the
educated higher caste women’s discourse without disturbing the patriarchal structure within
the family. Gujarati social reformers agenda targeted upper-caste and upper-class women so
that they would get greater dignity and better status within the family. They glorified
women’s traditional role of a nurturer as a source of strength.

Education of Women: Several booklets in Gujarati, containing essays and songs written in
different folk tunes dedicated to the cause of social reform advocate education for women.
The songs also advise the unmarried girls and married women to maintain purity of body,
soul, wealth, child, intelligence, clothes, mouth, eyes, utensils and food. 38 Several Garba-s
appeal to parents to send their daughters to school. A booklet written in the form of a letter
from a brother to his sister advises her that real education for a women is learning Pativrata
Dharma ( i.e. three ways to assure longevity and overall well-being of the husband : through
fasts, meditation and charity).39

A school-children’s textbook provides a series of discourses which condemn oppressive

social practices relating to women such as widow burning, depriving widows of proper food,
shaving their heads and perceiving their presence as inauspicious.40 The same textbook in
Lesson 190, showing the advantages of female education , states that educated women
perform housework in a better way. They keep their homes clean, they don’t fight among
themselves or use abusive language. They can be ideal mothers as they can educate their
children.41 The Gujarati Primer’s very first word and the Standard Textbook’s very first
Lesson is Ma (i..e. Mother).42 A booklet in Gujarati for education of muslim women has
more or less the same content so far as the concept of an ideal educated woman is

Reformist Discourse on House-work: Gujarat Vernacular Society (GVS) and Farbers

Gujarati Sabha (FGS) were at the forefront of the reformist discourse that challenged
traditional power structures and promoted a stereotyped model of ideal womanhood. In 1899,
it published a book, addressed to housewives which begins with this statement, ‘ The home is

See the booklets: ‘Prajapokar’, (Voice of People), 1874; Poet Prabhashankar Shamalji- ‘Kumarika Subodh’
(Preaching for the Unmarried Women), Ahmedabad, 1870 and ‘Manoranjak Garbawali’ ( A Collection of
Recreational Garba), Oriental Press, Ahmedabad, 1869.
Maneklal Harilal Pandya, ‘Pativrata Dharma’ ( ‘Let Thy Hath an Eternal Marital Bliss’), 1916, p. 29.
T.C. Hope- Gujarati 7th Standard Textbook, Government Central Book Depot, I edition, 1875 and IIV edition,
1903, Lesson 211 ‘Widows of This Country’, (p. 215) informs that there were 700 cases of widow- burning in
Ibid. pp. 193-194.
The Gujarati Primer, Fort Printing Press, Bombay, 1889, p.2 and Textbook for I std., Education Society,
Bombay, 1867.
Haji Gulamli Haji Ismail, ‘Talimunnisa Oratoni Talim’ (Training of Young Girls), Paanch patti,
Ahmedabad, , 21-8-1906.

a woman’s domain, her kingdom where she exercises entire control’. 44 The book also
contains ‘A garbi about a Lousey Woman’ by a reknowned poet, Dalpatram:

Listen to the farcical story of a lousey woman

Who can be bestowed with the title of ‘an owl’
It you examine her body,
You will find millions of lice.
If you go near her, you will find that
Her clothes are full of dirt and filth.
If you check her kitchen, you will find that
It resembles a bullock shed.
Everyday, she gets up in the afternoon
She inhales snuff and after finishing her lunch
she goes back to sleep.
She gossips, fights, sulks and cries on flimsy grounds.
Her hands and feet have layers of dirt.
The food cooked by her is tasteless and full of stone-pieces
Never socialise with a lousey woman or else evil will embrace you.
Men who possess efficient wives must be grateful to God.
This advice from Dalpatram is for wise men.

This poem45 also suggests how much the male social reformers must have disliked those
toiling poor women whose circumstances (small houses, scarcity of water and occupational
hazards) forced them to live like lousy women.

Another publication of GVS eulogises the magical effects of two words: ‘home-maker’ and
‘mother’.46 A Gujarati Kawwali is directed against working women applying snuff on their

A garbi describing the plight of a wife whose husband is an alcoholic, mentions wife-

A book by a well-known social reformer, Narayan Hemchandra describes a working class

woman in these words:

“It is a matter of deep regret that among the lower class, many married women go to work in
the factories for whole day. They give some cash to their neighbours, mostly the old women,
to buy milk for their children. It is purely a business for the old women who profit from this

Gruhini Kartavya Dipika (Guidelines for Housewife’s Duties), Gujarat Vernacular Society, Ahmedabad,
1899. The book teaches a housewife her duties towards her husband as the husband’s major achievement in life
is the possession of a good and pious wife. P. 40.
Male social reformers who composed poem included their name in the last line of the poem.
Dahyabhai Laxmanbhai Patel, ‘Sansarma Streeni Padvi’, (The Status of Women in Society), GVS,
Ahmedabad, 15- 12-1907.
Bhikhabhai Kalidas Bhilashi Nijaria, ‘ Patidar Subodh Kavyamala, Vol. 1, (A Collection of Poems with Good
Message for Patidars), Surat, 1917, p.32.
Manoranjak Garbavali, op.cit, pp.57-59.

situation. If mother gives milk to a child four times a day, the old woman will give milk, that
too after adding water , only twice a day. If the child cries, the old woman will give him/her
some opium. As a result, the child will die. The mother does not mourn his/her death as she
thinks that will reduce her expenditure. When you go against the wishes of God, this is what
happens.” 49

This demonisation of a working woman is juxtaposed with ideal hindu woman by the social
reformer, “Among the Hindus, mother has always been care-taker, cook and maid to her
child. O may God, the supreme, burden him with this responsibility for ever.”50

Thus in the discourse of the social reformers (mostly men) "a central element of the social
construction of femininity is that women are `naturally' equipped to love and care for others."51

The reformist discourse gives great importance to the notion of `Sara Gharni Vahu' i.e. women
from good families. If the `Sara Gharni Vahu' is not to be seen as a ` natural form' but rather as
an ideological proposal for changing forms of class-patriarchal relations and forms of social
reproduction, then social reform can be read as a way of thematising or conceptualising and
practicalising this agenda.

A major departure in the above mentioned line of thinking came from three social reformers
who demanded social recognition of women's contribution in terms of housework and
emotional sustenance of the family members. In a booklet, Status of Women in Society written
by Dahyabhai Laxman Patel, a woman is as usual glorified as `mother' and `home-maker' but at
the same time there is an appeal to recognise women's sacrifices. The author states:

“We applaud self-sacrificial men who play a courageous role in the life of a country and a
society; but by remaining invisible, quietly and with great resilience, women make sacrifices
every moment. We do not even acknowledge them. Actually, if someone bothers to take note of
this fact women's contribution may turn out to be many more times greater and larger.”52

A booklet providing a case-study of the economic conditions of the high caste Brahmins, known
as Vadnagar Nagar expresses its concern for worsening economic conditions of the members of
the caste (As per the Census Report, 871 men and 944 women constituted the caste group) and
suggested that 43% of them could not meet the needs of their households because of rising
inflation. Men in the caste-group died earlier than women. Hence, there were many female
headed households. To cope up with this problem, the author recommends:

“Women and men both should be trained in such a way that they can contribute for family's
advancement. Education and training are the best methods of improving economic condition.
Women should not go out to work (highlighted in original Gujarati text), but that does not
mean that they don't need education. Knowledge of sowing, knitting, tailoring can be very
Narayan Hemchandra: Griha Dharma (Duties of Home-Making0, Bombay, 1886, pp.34-35.
Linda McDowell and Rosemary Pringles, Defining Women- Social Institutions and Gender Divisions,
(Cambridge: Polity Press and the Open University), p. 128.
Dahyabhai Laxman Patel: Sansarma Streeni Padvi, (A Status of Women in Society), GVS,
Ahmedabad, 15-12-1907, p. 10.

useful for the family-members and by doing that they can reduce the cost of those items and
indirectly help the economic advancement of the family. They can also learn the skills of child-
rearing, home remedies, nursing, austere ways of running the household, cookery and augment
family resources...To supplement the family income, women should do home-based work of
making gloves, socks, banians, kerchiefs, shirts and doing hand-embroidery for Industrial Co-
operation owned by Miss Catherine Webb.*”53

A booklet An Arrival of a Universal Teacher by Manilal Nathubhai Doshi expresses its concern
about war going on in each and every home because of increasing feeling of self-respect among
women. It states:

“The character of struggle between men and women in the family is in no way different from
struggle between capital and labour. Now women are asking, why do women and men enjoy
differential rights? Don't women have soul? Even when men and women have same knowledge
why does a man's wage is Rs. 150 per month and a woman barely manages to get Rs.75 per
month and that too with great difficulty. Politicians and some members of the Parliament accept
the legitimacy of women's demands but to guarantee their rights major political changes have to
take place. This is the most mind-boggling issue and they are unable to solve this complex

This discourse expresses genuine and sincere appreciation of women's status, work and identity
in the public and private spheres. It is very important to note that dynamics of resistance
discourses were tangled in, on the one hand oppressive discourses that confined women to
domesticity while on the other hand, they challenged pre-colonial patriarchal power by putting
forward a perspective of a benevolent patriarchy within the matrix of an institution of family.

As per the 1931 Census, age-wise classification of widows was as follows:

Age Group Number of
0–1 1515
1–2 1785
2–3 3485
3–4 8076
4–5 15018
5 – 10 105449
10 - 15 183998
15 - 20 514394
20 - 25 846859

Vaikunthrai Navneetrai Mehta: `Aapni Komni Arthic Sthiti ane te Sudhrvana Sadhano', (Economic
Condition of Our Community and Ways of Improving It), Mumbai Bhavnagar Vadnagar Nagar Mandal,
Mumbai, 1918, pp. 14-23.
Manilal Nathubhai Doshi, Jagadgurunu Agaman, (An Arrival of a Universal Teacher), The Diamond
Jubilee Printing Press, Ahmedabad, 1917, II edition, pp.6-8.

Though Seva Sadan, Arya Mahila Sabha, Bhagini Samaj and Jyoti Sangh(Ahmedabad),
Vanmita Vishram helped women, to deal with the issue on a large scale state legislation
safeguarding their rights were a must.

Plight of widows sensitised many male social reformers of Gujarat to demand right to
ancestral property for widowed daughter or daughter-in-law.55

Caste /race, Class and Gender

It is impossible to speak of a working class family as an undifferentiated unit because the

class experiences of different segments of the working masses are fractured by gender, race
and caste.
Commenting on differences in the status of women in various castes in the 19th century Gujarati
Society, Neera Desai observes:

“...the economic hardships experienced by a weaver's or a potter's wife as a breakdown of

artisan industry were not being felt by wealthy Brahmin or Baniya women; the social ostracism
experienced by a high-caste woman for going out of the home would not be suffered by an
aboriginal woman.”56

Women from the artisan castes and the untouchable castes joined the newly developing
industrial labour market. A section of women took to wage-labour in the cotton textile factories
and the ginning mills.57 A very small section of the educated upper caste women, many of
whom were widows, came forward to accept employment as teachers and nurses.58

It is important to understand how capitalism subsumed pre-capitalist forms of surplus extraction

by skilful use of caste divisions. The Indian Factory Labour Commission,1908 reported that the
special facilities were given to the Brahmin (the superior most in the caste hierarchy) worker to
cook and eat his/her food.59

Janet Harvey Kelman(1923) gives a vivid account of how the high caste men and women
workers made the arrangements for food.

“When all workers work in a mill, a cold meal hurriedly prepared in the early morning is all that
can be obtained. The form of the pot or a bowl in which the food is carried showing through the
cloth in which it is tied, is a familiar sight on the streets and in the mills. Food that has to be
prepared in the early morning makes a big demand on the woman worker and her anxiety is not
at an end when the meal has been prepared. It must be kept from contamination of every kind
till it is actually eaten. The fear of having it touched or even shadowed is one cause of the
difficulties that sometimes prevent mills from employing numbers of the depressed classes in

Girish Vakil, op.cit, p.419. quoted from Harijan Bandhu.
Neera Desai, Social Change in Gujarat- A Study of Nineteenth Century Gujarati Society, (Bombay:
Vora & Co.,1978).
Neera Desai, ibid., p. 353
ibid., p.355.
The Indian Factory Labour Commission, 1908, The Report With Evidence, Vol.2, p. 28.

the same room with the caste Hindu women. Curious bundles, wrapped in clothes that have seen
much use, are poised high on machinery or hung from a nail in a wall, and it is strange to think
that if a covering of one were but touched, the contents would be flung away, no matter how
hungry the owner might be.”

This description shows how the notion of `purity' and `pollution' based on the caste system
prevented normal interactions among the members of the same class. Caste played a significant
role at a relation of production level. When the employers and the state provided some welfare
facilities, they meticulously observed the norms of caste-segregation. For example, when the
welfare centres for women were established under the Lady Willingdon Scheme for improving
the condition of childbirth in the industrial areas, separate centres of the infant Welfare Societies
were formed for the caste Hindus and the untouchables.60

In case of women workers, the caste-based segregation was compounded by sex-segregation at

the work-place. Interplay of caste, class and gender at the relation of production level provided
the material basis for women's oppression in the capitalist socio-economic formation.

“The large majority of factory women in India will never under any conditions work alongside
of men in the spinning room or weaving shed. A small percentage of low caste women, like the
pariah women in Pondicherry, may accept work in all the departments of a mill and work
alongside of men of all castes. But the large majority will never.”61

By dividing the women workers into two categories according to their caste status, the lower
caste women were made out to be of `loose character' that had no qualms working side by side
with their male counterparts. The colonial discourse recreated, elaborated, endorsed and
perpetuated the upper-caste values in which purity and domestic virtue of the new middle- class
housewife `Sara Gharni Streeo' (women from respectable families) was juxtaposed against
`licentious working class women'.

The discourse on caste and gender reminds us of a similar discourse on emigration of women
from India to Mauritius.

The anti-slavery society, London, which was moved by the deplorable conditions and treatment
of the coolies (i.e. the indentured labour) on the voyage and subsequently to their arrival in the
colony, was fighting against the evils connected with the whole system. The official records
revealed that 19050 men, 205 women and 51 children were exported to Mauritius by the mid-
nineteenth century. 62 The Anti-slavery Reporter gives a moving account of the inhuman living

“They are treated with great and unjust severity, by overwork, and by personal chastisement,
their lodging accommodation is either too confined or disgustingly filthy.”63

Janet Harvey Kelman, op. cit., p. 185.
ITJ, Vol. XIX, No.218, pp. 55-57.
The Anti-slavery Reporter, 26 February, 1840.
Emigration From India- The Export of Coolies and Other Labourers to Mauritius, The Office of the
British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society, London, 1842.

The Report stated that there were 7304 and 7067 incidents of flogging. The committee
expresses its concern for the disproportionate numbers of men and women coolies in these

“It is easy to conceive, that, from this frightful disparity of the sexes, the most horrible and
revolting depravity and demoralisation must necessarily ensue, and that such large masses of
ignorant and degraded beings must carry with them a most corrupting influence on others. We
must confess that we cannot contemplate this fact without a shudder, and the most painful
conviction is forced on our minds that, however immoral the Negro in Mauritius was, he has
been rendered more so by his contact with the coolies.”64

This shows the parallel discourses of race and caste around the same time in the history. The
coolie women in Mauritius and the untouchable women shouldered the burden of the wage-
work along with the double standard of sexual morality and of many ills such as the neglect of
children and the disintegration of the institution of family.

Standards of Morality

Women workers from `good families' were expected not to mix with the male workers. Women
working alongside of unknown men were perceived as lowly. A strategy of sex-segregation was
effectively utilised to minimise direct competition between men and women by preventing
women from working in those areas of work where men remained while still allowing women
to be a source of cheap labour for employers in other grades. 65The code of conduct of the
culture of sex-segregation demanded from women to be as invisible, inconspicuous and low
profile as possible.66 Patriarchal sexual practices of segregation of women from men had an
effect on gender patterns of employment.

The discourse on sexuality juxtaposes `women from good families' who were home-bound and
perceived as chaste to `women from the poor families' who went out to work and were
perceived as licentious and lustful. With increasing migration and separation of spouses on a
long term basis, cohabitation among working class women and men became more and more
evident in spite of the hue and cry made by the custodians of morality in the society. Problems
of male partners deserting women, societal hostility towards `illegitimate children' and deserted
women starting to cohabit with new man created instability in the institution of marriage. It
bothered both the state and the upper caste patriarchs because among the lower caste people,
women had `right to divorce and remarriage' (colloquial term for which is Naataru). Concerning
the housing problem, a comment made by one left-wing intellectual is worth mentioning. He
says, "Women and men from the poor families spend their lives in a small room. As a result,

ibid. Similar account is found in a study by Brij V. Lal, `Kunti's Cry: Indentured Women on Fiji
Plantations', in J. Krishnamurty (Ed.), Women in Colonial India- Essays on Survival, Work and the State
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989),pp.163-179.
Sylvia Walby, Theorising Patriarchy, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), p. 54.
Similar observations were made by a study in the Northwest India, See Ursula Sharma (1980), pp.5-

from the point of view of morality, it generates a bad influence on their children." 67 The mill-
owners were advised to provide proper housing to the working class so that they could `settle
down' properly and higher standards of mutual loyalty among husband-wife relationship could
be maintained. 68

There seemed to be a major anxiety about a woman living all by herself due to a popular belief
that `no woman can withstand temptation'. Kelman's remarks express the societal antipathy
towards a single or group of working women staying in a place without a male guardian:

“One very great difficulty lies in the fact that only in a few exceptional cases is it possible for
Indian women to live alone or in small groups and yet maintains their respectability.”69

Regulation of men-women relationship in the public and private spheres of working women's
lives seemed to be the major concern of the discourse on sexuality because their status as
worker was overshadowed by their sexual status.

Colonial Discourse on Health, Education and Welfare of Women

Public Health and Occupational Safety: Need for trained nurses, midwives and women
doctors was noticed by the authority because of moving narrative about “condition of
women workers at the time of child-birth.70 Concern about women’s health in
connection with child-marriage, applying of tobacco finds place in the writings of
social reformers.71 Concern about maternal mortality has been expressed in Jain
religion.72 Bhagini Samaj took initiative in starting programme concerning Mother-
&-child-care and education.73

Childcare Centre - Creche: It was only in the early 20th century, the state started showing
concern for pregnant and lactating mothers. A Committee appointed by the
Government of India recommended,
“ In case of women working in mills, arrangement for nurseries should be made by mill-
agents where females can nurse their infants. They should also be advised not to work in
mills during the last month of their pregnancy and for three months after delivery.” 74 After
1920, crèches were provided at some of the larger mills in Ahmedabad, but with fall off in
women workers, they remained underutilised.75

R.R. Vakil, `Gujaratni Streeonu Jeevan ane Temno Arthic Vyavahar',(Lives of Gujarati Women and
Their Economic Affairs), Shree Farbers Gujarati Sabha Quarterly, III Book, No. 3, 1938, Oct.-Dec.,p.15.
Janet Harvey Kelman, op. cit., p.209.
Janet Harvey Kelman, ibid., p.210.
A. R. Burnett- Hurst, “Suggestion for Labour Legislation in India”, Indian Journal of Economics, Vol. Iii, part
iv, p. 497.
Patidar Subodh Mala, I, Surat, 1917.
Digambar Jain Granthmala, No. 25, Surat, 30-3-1914, pp. 39-40.
Bhagini Samaj Pamphlet Series, No. 16, 1917.
Is, 8-11-1913, p. 888.Also see, Kelman, ibid, 185.
Renana Jhabwala’s study quoted by Sallie Wastewood: “Gender and Politics Of Production in India”, in
Halen Afshar- Development and Survival in the Third World, Longman, U. K. ,1991, p.27.

Debate on the shortening of working hours: The investigation into the conditions of factory
labour in India revealed that the mills were working at high pressure. There were 22 fatal
accidents among the operatives. In 1905, there was an agitation by the workers for reduction of
working hours.76 After 4 years of sustained struggle, it was declared , “ No person shall be
employed for more than 12 hours .

It was also recommended that women should be allowed to work in the mill between 5.30 a.m.-
7 p.m. Factories Act, xv of 1881, as amended by the Act of 1891 and rules thereunder, An Act
to regulate Labour in Factories prohibited employment of women or child in two factories on
same day.

Night-shift for Women Workers: Opposition from night shift came from experts on labour
studies and pressure from the trade unions. 77 In response to the opposition for night-shift for
women workers, the Viceroy informed Mr. A. Godley, Under Secretary of State,

“The Factory Bill was passed with two modifications : 1. Women are permitted to work at
night, when work is arranged in a shift system. Night work is uncommon but where it prevails, I
see no reason to debar women from it. In hot weather, it is less fatiguing and natives are
accustomed to sleep at any hour.”78

Labour Welfare: Education: About education of the working class children, the authority’s
support was on this ground, “ignorant and brutal children will increase ignorant and brutal
lawless classes.”79 Private initiatives of Gandhian women in Ahmedabad were noteworthy.
Reported The Times of India on 18-3-1918,

“Bai Anasuya, a sister of Ambalal Sarabhai who is doing some philanthrophic work and certain
members of the Home Rule League give them lectures on economy, morality, sanitation,
citizenship, social duties and other kindered subjects.”

Anasuyaben also enlightened workers about wage-differential between Bombay and

Ahmedabad.80 Swadeshi Bank made an appeal to the wealthy citizens to stop spending money
on jewels and channelise their wealth into productive industrial activities via the Bank.81

Prostitution and Purda: Social reformers with left leaning explained prostitution without
blaming women. Article in Forbes Gujarati Sabha stated that worsening economic situation of
women was responsible for prostitution, even temple prostitution. As per the survey of that
period, 35.5 % joined prostituion because their wages were inadequate to meet the basic needs,
21% of prostitutes did the business for fun, 14% of them were homeless and destitutes and o.5
% had to become prostitutes due to alcoholism. We see two simultaneous discourses of
prostitution and destitution and prostitution and purdah. Purdah is classified as social
injustice and is severely criticized in these words, “Either abolish purdah or make a criminal
IS, 14-7-1906.
A. R. Burnett- Hurst, op. cit., p.499.
East India Factory Act, 5-5-1891, pp. 1-5.
IS, 1908.
The Times of India, 18-3-1918, col.2-3.
IS, 15-12-1906, p.1180.

men wear purdah.”82 Though temple prostitution is mentioned time and again, the statistics are


It is important to understand the relationship of mode of production, class and culture to

understand subordination of women's wage-labour to the requirement of the domestic duties.
Inferior terms of women’s employment perpetuated their subordination in the family. How
women were paid and valued in the fields and factories had direct bearing on women workers'
status within and outside the workplace. Garba in rustic Gujarati depicting the labour process,
workload and time-allocation captured working women's reality and represented the counter-
discourse of the women's agency. While the dominant discourse represented in Garba produced
by the male social reformers glorified the upper class house-wives as ideal mothers and home-
makers while the working class women as amoral, licentious and threat to the institution of
family. Discourse on social reform revealed that both tradition and modernity have been carriers
of patriarchal ideology.83

Ideology of subordination of women, seclusion and proper place of women is connected to

structural and cultural factors. Colonial economic development demanded modernisation of
patriarchal methods of regulating and controlling women as against democratisation of gender
relations in the home and the workplace attempted by the collective struggles of the working
class. As a result, the women workers shouldered the double burden of wage-work/housework,
the double standard of sexual morality and carried the blame for corrupting the moral standard
of society. Careful examination of the employers' policies revealed that partnership of patriarchy
and capitalism in colonial Gujarat emerged in such a way that it allowed women a secondary
place in the labour market. Non-recognition of `unpaid family labour augmenting family
resources’ had been a marked feature of the Census Reports. The same logic was found in the
policies of the employers and the state.

Girish Vakil, op.cit.,p.414.
Kumkum Sanghari and Sudesh Vaid (ED.), Recasting Women- Essays in Indian Colonial History,
(New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1990), p.17.