Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa: Laidlaw Summer 2021
A report of my research this summer on the writings of the Indian poet, activist, and educator Mahadevi Varma (1907-1987) about the status of women in Hindu marriages during colonial India
For my first summer of Laidlaw research, I studied a series of editorials published by Mahadevi Varma on the condition of women in Hindu marriages during 1930s British India, seeking to compare Mahadevi's works with those of two groups: Western social reformers and feminists, and prominent men in the Indian independence movement who framed themselves as cultural reformers. Here, I discuss how Mahadevi's writings offer a means to reconceptualize the experiences of Hindu women in the marriage system and a critique of the more well-known views of her Western and Indian anti-colonial interlocutors, as well as what insights this might have to future historical research and to the field of leadership and human rights reform. I hope to continue engaging with Mahadevi's works in my second summer—spending the next year improving my Hindi proficiency so I can engage better with her original Hindi poetry and other literary works—and remain deeply interested in these intersections of gender and anti-colonialism in South Asia, and beyond.