Marriage or a Job? T Narayani Amma

[From the Proceedings of the Shree Mulam Popular Assembly  16 November 1933, pp 95-100]

Intervention in the debate on Demand for Supplementary Grants — Education.

SRIMATI T NARAYANI AMMA (Nominated) :         Before I begin my observations on the Report of the Education Reforms Committee [the Statham Committee], I wish, Sir, to thank the Government of His Highness the Maha Raja, for the privilege that has been extended to us, the members of this House, to discuss the Report. It is a rare privilege so far as this House is concerned and a healthy move as far as such Reports are concerned. We feel grateful that unlike some other reports that are gathering dust in some of the archives of the Secretariat, the Education Reforms Committee’s Report gets the benefit of a discussion by the non-official members of the legislature, the welcome impression being created that early action is being contemplated by the Government. This is certainly as it ought to be, and the policy adopted by the Government, I am sure, will be immensely appreciated. Continue reading “Marriage or a Job? T Narayani Amma”

Appointment of Women in Public Service: Elizabeth Kuruvila

[Speech made in support of the Resolution moved in the House by A G Menon in support of the appointment of women in public service, Proceedings of the Travancore State Legislative Council XIV, no. 7, 1st Session, 25 April 1929, pp. 537-38.] Continue reading “Appointment of Women in Public Service: Elizabeth Kuruvila”

Women’s Honour and the Travancore Census Report, 1941: T Narayani Amma Responds

[This short speech, below, by T Narayani Amma who represented the constituency Women in the Travancore Sree Mulam Assembly was part of the debate over the Adjournment Motion moved by Puliyoor TP Velayudhan Pillai on 26 January 1943 which claimed that the Census Report of Travancore of 1941 contained scandalous untruths about Marumakkathayi women in the state (besides untruths about savarna opposition to the spirit of the Temple Entry Proclamation). The Census Report contained statements that claimed (rather colourfully) that many women had become economically insecure after the dismantling of the joint family system and so were resorting to loose arrangements in order to secure “their daily bread.” To establish this, the Census Commissioner cited the statistics of larger number of married females compared to married males. Pillai expressed “great pain, sorrow, and disappointment” at this statement as he moved the Motion. Several other male members, including Pillai, supported the Motion, vehemently opposing this alleged attack on “the chastity of the whole of womenfolk of Travancore” (Pillai’s statement) and many indignant speeches followed. In general, the Census Commissioner Narayanan Tampi was accused of denigrating the respectability of women in Travancore with any real data on it. In general, they were also convinced that Marumakkathayi women would never “swerve from the path of true honour and chastity” (Sadasyatilakan T K Velu Pillai). Continue reading “Women’s Honour and the Travancore Census Report, 1941: T Narayani Amma Responds”

Freedom from Forced Labour: Dakshayani Velayudhan

Dakshayani Velayudhan (1912-1978), the only dalit woman member of the Constituent Assembly of India, was born in Kochi. She distinguished herself early in life as the first dalit woman in Kerala to obtain a college degree, which she remembers, was won in the face of continuing caste discrimination in college and outside. She worked as a teacher after her education and also served in the Cochin Legislative Council during 1945-48, actively participating in the debates. At the age of 34, she became a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly. Some of her legislative assembly debates have been included here,for example,this one. Continue reading “Freedom from Forced Labour: Dakshayani Velayudhan”

Vignettes of the Memory: Lakshmi N Menon

Translated by J Devika

Lakshmi N Menon (1899-1994) was one of the most successful Malayali women in Indian politics  despite the fact that she never really entered formal politics, though attracted to nationalism and international politics as a student abroad in the 1920s. Her father was the well-known reformer, educationist, and rationalist Ramavarma Thampan, (her mother was Madhavikkutty Amma) and her husband the educationist and scholar V K Nandana Menon — but she was one of the rare women who were better known than their male relatives. Lakshmi N Menon was educated in Thiruvananthapuram and she worked for a time as a teacher and later as a lawyer, growing closer to social activism in the 1920s and 30s especially associated with the All-India Women’s Conference. She was a member of the Rajya Sabha in the 1950s; she represented as the head of the India delegation at the UN in the 1950s and was a Minister of State in the 1960s.  She was nominated to the Committee on the Status of Women at the UN. Continue reading “Vignettes of the Memory: Lakshmi N Menon”

Resolution Banning Untouchability in Kochi: Dakshayani Velayudhan

[Speaking in the discussion on a resolution demanding a ban on untouchability through a Royal Proclamation. Proceedings of the Cochin Legislative Assembly 11 August 1945, 635-36 . This is originally in Malayalam; I have translated it below.] Continue reading “Resolution Banning Untouchability in Kochi: Dakshayani Velayudhan”

Nair Women and the Home: Konniyur Meenakshi Amma

Translated by J Devika


[This is an earlier version of a translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, from Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]

Konniyoor K. Meenakshi Amma (1901-80) was born at Konniyoor in a well-known Nair family as the eldest daughter of P.S. Velu Pillai and Kutti Amma. She was the first woman from the district to have secured a postgraduate degree. She had a long teaching career in Thiruvananthapuram, from 1925 to 1956. She was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to Tiruvitamkoor in 1925 to become a well-known social worker in Tiruvitamkoor, a calling she took up with renewed zest after her retirement from service in 1956. She represents the conservative strand of ‘women’s uplift’ in early Malayali feminism, which seeks an active role for women at home but does not directly question gender injustice and inequality. She returned to her native village of Konniyoor that year, and became very active as a grass-roots development activist, and played a very important role in electrifying her village, in bringing modern health-care and family planning services to the region, in connecting the village to other areas by building a bridge across the Achenkovil river etc. She was honoured by her students and the local people in 1975 with a library built in the village named after her. She wrote extensively in magazines in the 1920s and 30s, and was a respected public speaker. Her publications include Neenda Nizhal, Pushpakam and Atmabali, and many other translations from English. Continue reading “Nair Women and the Home: Konniyur Meenakshi Amma”

Women and Literature: B Bhageerathy Amma

Translated by J Devika

[ this is an earlier version of the translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, published by Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005, For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]

Bhageeraty Amma (1890- 1938) was one of the most vocal advocates of an active, informed and disciplined domestic role for women in early 20th century Kerala. She was well-known as the editor of The Mahila, one of the longest-lived Women’s magazines of the period. She was known to be a powerful public speaker, and was one of the women considered for membership in the Shree Mulam Praja Sabha in 1927 (Malayala Manorama, 23 June 1927). Her major work, Stree (1925) described in detail her vision of ‘active’ domesticity as opposed to the traditional passive wifely devotion and was dedicated to “the womenfolk of Keralam”. Vijnanaprakasham was another work. The following article was a speech she made at the fifth annual meeting of the literary assembly, the Kerala Sahitya Parishat. Her presence at the Parishat meetings did make a difference: in the meeting at Ernakulam, she argued against the practice of holding a separate women’s meeting, pointing out that it was tantamount to segregating women, and that the decision that women should not be made speakers in men’s literary meetings was misguided (The Mahila 12 (4,5) 1932: 58). Her essays on modern Womanhood, which appeared in The Mahila were collected in a book, Sahityaramam. Continue reading “Women and Literature: B Bhageerathy Amma”