Indonesia’s first feminist
Published/Last edited or updated: 31st May, 2017
Jepara’s Museum RA Kartini celebrates the life and work of Raden Adjeng Kartini (1879–1904), hailed as a national hero in Indonesia and regarded as the country’s first feminist—she was a pioneer for women’s education at the turn of the twentieth century.
To relieve her boredom, she advertised in a Dutch women’s magazine for penpals, and began correspondence that opened her eyes to European ideas of equality. She wrote of her dreams of improving education for girls and social justice not just for women in Javanese society, but of her countrymen’s struggle against Dutch colonialism. In 1903 she opened the first school for girls in Indonesia that didn’t discriminate on the basis of social class.
Ironically to escape the confines of the family compound she agreed to an arranged marriage, and a year later died from complications of childbirth. Her eloquent and passionate collection of letters were published posthumously as “Through Darkness to Light”, and later in English as “Letters of a Javanese Princess”, and went on to inspire generations of Indonesian feminists.
Her birthday, April 21 is celebrated as a national holiday, seen as Indonesian Women’s Day, although somewhat paradoxically fashion parades are often the focus of festivities. The museum displays a collection of photos and furniture from the Kartini household labelled in English and Indonesian, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of privileged Indonesians of the time. Two other rooms house general artefacts and local handcrafts, only of passing interest.
The museum is worth a visit if you have some spare time in town and will take less than 30 minutes to ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 200 words.)
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.