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Part IV Women's Education Chapter 10 Raden Ajeng Kartini and Cultural Nationalism in Java Joost Coté Y In 1911, a colle...


Part IV

Women’s Education

Chapter 10

Raden Ajeng Kartini and Cultural Nationalism in Java Joost Coté

Y In 1911, a collection of selected, carefully edited letters written by a largely self-educated Javanese woman was published in the Netherlands in memory of her untimely death seven years previously. The letters, written in Dutch over a period of five years to five Dutch women and six Dutch men, describe, on one level, her efforts to gain further Western education. This personal goal was wrapped up in a larger vision: that her educated self would contribute to the ‘advancement’ of her society. On both a personal and a social level, these goals involved a broader vision of social and cultural change that can be termed ‘modernity’. What kind of society such changes might produce she could not yet define at this juncture in Javanese history, but her letters were insistent about the ideals that would underpin it. The articulation of such ideas in Java at the time they were written was not entirely new. Indeed, references to similar sentiments and ideas appear in an emerging public discourse among Javanese and other indigenous inhabitants of the archipelago who wrote in the latter decades of the nineteenth century and, more dramatically, the first decade of the twentieth.1 But insofar as it had manifested itself, such public expression of new perspectives and sentiments was exclusively articulated by men and consisted largely of ‘the incorporation of certain European ways of thinking within the larger world of Javanese thought’ (Behrend quoted in Ricklefs 2007: 140).2 Indonesian history provides no other comparable, woman-authored set of documents from this early period to convey a gen-



Joost Coté

dered perspective on what has been defined in other contexts as the emergence of cultural nationalism.3 Although this historical figure, Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879–1904), has been widely discussed in terms of her feminist credentials, less attention has been paid to Kartini’s correspondence as a historical source for the discourse of Javanese modernity whose early articulation it uniquely documents. Yet in the course of the decade after Kartini wrote these letters, the central precepts of her emotionally charged private writing (presaged in several pieces that had already found their way into the public domain) increasingly informed the public speeches, pamphlets and vernacular language newspapers of colonial subjects. The apparent reliance of her ‘gedachten’ (ideas) on Western (colonial) concepts, as well as Kartini’s evident links to feudal Javanese and elite colonial society, have – perhaps understandably – separated her history from the later narrative of a more revolutionary Indonesian anticolonial struggle. Kartini, it is argued here, was an early exponent of a distinct ‘Javanese nationalism’ whose emergence few historians have examined, to date. Preoccupied with ‘political nationalism’, Indonesian historiography has tended to disregard, or subsume evidence of, the expression of regional and ethnic cultural nationalisms not specifically fitting that central national political narrative.4 Newer historiographical perspectives on global interactions and sub-national histories, however, have increasingly focused attention on the detail of the more intricate intercultural webs that have contributed to the postcolonial and global conditions of the present. Cultural historians have become alert to the complexities of ‘modernity’ as central to the problematic of nationalism, increasingly recognizing a need for ‘multiple modernities’.5 Conversely, ‘Third World nationalists’ have been urged to recognize that the ‘achievement of political modernity . . . could only take place through a contradictory relationship to European social and political thought’ (Chakrabarty 2000: 9). This chapter seeks to contribute to an exploration of the historical process of transcultural interaction that was an inevitable by-product of colonialism. It argues that the body of published writing by Kartini represents some of the earliest extant ‘national’ articulation of a Javanese modernity. It briefly identifies the ideas and assumptions referenced or implicit in this body of private Javanese writing that drew on a broader discourse of modernity then circulating in metropolitan Europe and, less explicitly, in colonial society. It then highlights the complexity of the historical trajectory of nationalism in Indonesia by distinguishing the moment of Kartini’s ‘act of writing’ between 1899 and 1904, and the moment a decade later – 1911 – when the correspondence was first published in the Netherlands as an

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edited ‘collection of thoughts’. By 1911, the debate on colonial policy had developed considerably in ‘greater Netherlands’ and become more clearly etched in a variety of ‘politicized polarities’ (Ricklefs 2007). Kartini’s earlier private act of writing came to be appropriated by ‘progressive’ colonial political discourses and employed to compete against other emerging colonial and Indonesian voices. In charting the course of an Indian (Bengali) nationalism, Partha Chatterjee has defined women’s writing as representing the ‘original site in which the hegemonic project of nationalism was launched’ (Chatterjee 1993: 148).6 More broadly in the colonial context, Hutchinson has argued that such voices, whether they have grass-roots origins or are formulated in terms of specific ‘discourses of gender, region, religion and communalism’, need to be recognized as expressions of a ‘proto nationalism’ aimed ultimately at resisting the incursions of the colonial state. Even if initially unconnected and decentralized, the aim of its exponents can be characterized as ‘seek[ing] to recreate a patriotic and self-aware stratum within each national sphere . . . and [aiming] to overthrow foreign hegemony in the dominant institutions of the community’ (Hutchinson 1999: 400). Ostensibly cultural in terms of their content, such discourses need to be recognized for their political significance because in such (colonial) circumstances, ‘culture is viewed as inextricably aligned to an activist political sense’ (ibid.: 400). This perspective on ‘cultural nationalism’ provides a useful position from which to view Kartini’s original act of writing – as distinct from its later ‘colonization’ by editorialization – as a political act. Recognizing the significance of the collected correspondence as a political document, then, requires recognizing the correspondence as constituting an act of ‘speaking’ (Berman 1998).7 This recognition also hinges on clarifying the historical process of Kartini’s own appropriation of European progressive discourse and her conscious exploitation of the Dutch language, the colonial mode of letter writing and the postal service as the enabling technologies that allowed her to ‘speak’ to her colonial interlocutors. Together, the actions of this individual woman arguably constitute a ‘grass-roots’ political act, as identified above, through which Kartini specifically attempted to challenge the colonial state.

KARTINI: A LIFE The narrative of events in Kartini’s life covered by the five years of correspondence has been widely rehearsed in international literature over the century since its publication. Space here does not permit more than the


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briefest outline of that history, which must suffice to focus on the nature of her interaction with Western discourses and their exponents. Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879–1904) spent most of her short life ostensibly embedded in a feudal Javanese world in Jepara, far from the colonial capital of Batavia. Once the centre of a prominent independent north coast Islamic state that more recently had been a colonial residency or administrative province, the town of Jepara was in decline by the end of the nineteenth century, reduced to a minor administrative post on the fringes of a booming colonial sugar industry.8 In her writing, then, she locates herself in the ‘Oosthoek’, a region in Java analogous to an eponymous region in metropolitan Netherlands similarly removed from the centre of power and society. Personally she presents herself as imprisoned in a ‘gilded cage’, a reference to the aristocratic tradition of pingit.9 Physically she was indeed largely isolated from the increasing momentum of a rapidly modernizing material world, but this perception belied the reality in important ways. The correspondence cites regular steam tram excursions to the urban centre of Semarang and regular visits to photographic studios, as well as frequent contact with a stream of ‘metropolitan’ visitors. More significantly, she was in ‘virtual contact’ with the tumultuous intellectual changes occurring in Europe – and with their belated, secondhand appearance in the colonial capital. In this sense, she and her European colonial contemporaries were situated in approximately similar positions in relation to ‘modernity’.10 Indeed, the letters exchanged with the select group of Europeans represented by the extant correspondence explicitly identify her as linked to a very small but distinctly recognizable group of contemporary supporters of ‘colonial reform’. Moreover, as will be demonstrated below, the recipients of her letters – the women and men she was speaking to – were all linked to the various streams of progressive discourse and movements in the Netherlands whose ideas were echoed in the ‘colonial reform’ platform. The elaborate and lengthy letters Kartini wrote to these individuals can be seen as amounting to an explicit act of claiming (as a representative Javanese) the right to be part of that small circle – to share the ideology of that cultural movement and indeed, to educate it. In setting out an aspiration to a Javanese modernity, Kartini’s correspondence demanded of her interlocutors recognition of Java as (at least potentially) the equal of contemporary Netherlands, and herself as an equal to European women. One of eleven children, Kartini was the second-eldest daughter of a Javanese regent (bupati), the regional indigenous authority harnessed to the colonial administration. She was the fourth child and eldest daughter of his selir, or ‘secondary’ wife, a circumstance in her own biography that anchored some of her later thinking on the condition of Javanese women. Her father,

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Regent of Jepara Raden Mas Adipati Ario Sosroningrat, was known within the colonial bureaucracy as a scion of a pro-colonial dynasty of honourable lineage extending back to the ancient Javanese Majahpahit Empire that now boasted a network of family members in positions of authority throughout this part of Java. Himself a beneficiary (like all his siblings, including his sisters) of a Western (Dutch) education, Sosroningrat ensured comparable access to Western education for his own children. For Kartini, this meant several years of European elementary school education (till the end of the 1891–92 school year, when she was twelve; her younger sisters completed elementary school); meanwhile, her brothers were amongst the few Javanese men of the day who had successfully completed HBS, a European grammar school education.11 Sosroningrat and his children spoke fluent Dutch, and the kebupaten, the official residence of the regent – and specifically Kartini’s room – had a well-stocked Dutch-language library supplemented by subscriptions to several leading Dutch-language newspapers and literary and cultural journals, and to the colonial community’s lees trommel, the mobile revolving subscription ‘library’ of Dutch reading material.12 All these resources were available for Kartini’s self-education after she left primary school. From 1892 on, Kartini was in the constant physical company of a local colonial official’s wife, Marie Ovink-Soer (1904, 1925).13 The extant correspondence begins after this family’s departure from Jepara in 1899 and gradually widens to encompass the eleven recipients selected for the 1911 publication, titled Door Duisternis tot Licht. More specifically, Kartini was motivated to begin what became an extensive body of writing after she contributed exhibits of Javanese women’s work to the Dutch Nationale Tentoonstelling voor Vrouwenarbeid, the national exhibition of women’s work held in The Hague (Coté 2000).14 From then till her wedding in November 1903, and thereafter as wife of the regent of Rembang until her death in September 1904, she gradually became known to a growing circle of people interested colonial affairs in the Netherlands, as well as to increasing numbers of Javanese and colonial critics of her presumptuous behaviour. In fact, she became a minor celebrity presence in the colonial and metropolitan media, as much for the curiosity value of being a female Javanese writer in Dutch as for what she wrote about. Kartini’s involvement in the seminal project of the nineteenth-century Dutch women’s movement represented her first attempt to articulate and publicize her claim to equality in terms of the feminist discourse of the day. Thereafter, defying the hesitancy, obfuscation and outright opposition of both Javanese and colonial actors in her immediate environment, her letters held increasingly passionate expressions of her personal aspirations and those she projected for ‘her people’. The narrative of her efforts to gain an


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education peaks in the course of 1901 and 1902, when it seemed likely that official support would make her the first Dutch-government-funded Indonesian woman to study in the Netherlands. The subsequent correspondence relates a series of what could be construed as strategic compromises in which she was obliged to recalibrate her goals in the face of growing opposition.15

KARTINI AND THE DISCOURSE OF MODERNITY Although the letters in the 1911 publication represent a conscious post factum selection, they nevertheless constitute an important record of Kartini’s links with specific community figures whom historians have been wont to describe as proponents of an ‘ethical policy’ (Ricklefs 2001: 193). They comprise a small circle of eleven like-minded Europeans (including two sets of married couples), although references in the letters indicate that the actual extent of her network of correspondents included many more individuals, European and Javanese, of a similar orientation. Of course, only access to the other side of the extant correspondence would allow an accurate assessment of how these correspondents may have influenced Kartini’s discourse. However, the general cultural and political orientation these individuals specifically expressed or represented is determinable, either through direct reference to their own publications or indirectly by reference to their known affiliations and activities. These channels show that each of the eleven correspondents was directly linked to cultural, social and political movements then contemporaneously emerging in the metropolitan Netherlands. Most notable were the socialist and feminist movements whose influence came to the fore in the late nineteenth century, but no less significant was the political influence of a populist Christian revivalist movement emerging partly in opposition to the rising tide of secular liberal and socialist reformism and partly in response to the wider social and economic changes the Netherlands was experiencing.16 These ideological streams competed for political influence over a gradually democratizing Dutch civil society, forming distinct sociocultural political groupings in terms of which Dutch colonial policy was defined (Stuurman 1983). In this context it is clear that the individuals with whom Kartini corresponded were personally or intellectually linked to the contemporary ‘progressive movements’ in the Netherlands. They were socialists, liberal and moderate feminists, and exponents of Christian socialism and philanthropic views that were then challenging traditional attitudes in Dutch society and, by extension, traditional colonial policy (ibid.; de Regt 1984). All Kartini’s female correspondents considered themselves feminists. Most illustri-

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ous among them were the Netherlands-based Petronella Porreij (Nellie van Kol), a prominent voice in late-nineteenth-century socialist feminism,17 and Stella Zeehandelaar, a ‘rank and file’ socialist, feminist, urban social worker, vegetarian and temperance advocate (Bouman 1954: 26).18 Her key male correspondents, Henri van Kol,19 Jacques Abendanon20 and Dr Nicolaus Adriani,21 respectively represented (and were active exponents of) socialist, liberal and Christian streams of progressive Dutch colonial discourse. Two other male correspondents, Professor G.K. Anton22 and G.L. Gonggrijp (1944 [1913]),23 as well as several individuals mentioned but not included were also active voices in colonial discourse.24 Equally important to understanding Kartini’s intellectual context is an itemization of her library. An analysis enumerated in her correspondence shows that it contained the core literary output of the late nineteenth century. The arts responded to the upheavals in the material world in parallel with the political and social changes in Dutch society. In particular, proponents of the cultural movement known as De Beweging van Tachtig (the Eighties Movement) strove to break down institutionalized cultural and social barriers and focus on exploring the inner life and consciousness of the modern individual (Knuvelder 1962: 575–84; Bel 1993). The literary world gave expression to the sentiments of late-nineteenth-century feminism and socialism in some of the most influential popular novels of the time, which realistically portrayed the emotional suffering, idealistic excitement and sensuality of the modern individual, offering new insights into the nature and experience of once hidden corners of human existence. Kartini was very proud of her library, which was notable for the prevalence of almost contemporaneously published Dutch socialist and feminist writing as well as its selection of the most influential, if now largely forgotten, English and European titles in translation. The latter included such bestsellers as Henry Fielding’s account of Buddhism and Buddhist society, The Soul of the People (1899), Mary Ward’s Robert Elsmer (1888) and Marcella (1894), Rudyard Kipling’s The Light that Failed (1890), Beatrice Harraden’s Ships that Pass in the Night (1893), Maurice Maeterlinck’s Wisdom and Destiny (1898) and Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection (1899), as well as older classics like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (1856), Robert Hammerling’s Aspasia (1876), Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (1860), Samuel Smiles’s Essays (1881) and Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur (1880). She owned a representative collection of key Tachtiger texts, including works by Vosmaer, van Eeden, Limburg Brouwer, and naturally, Multatuli, pseudonym of E. Douwes Dekker, author of Max Havelaar and one of the most influential nineteenth-century Dutch writers on colonial reform (see Dolk 1993). Most notably, Kartini owned and explicitly discussed the contemporary sensational feminist novels Hilda van Zulen-


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berg (1898) and Barthold Meryam (1896), Bertha Suttner’s influential pacifist novel, Lay Down Your Arms (1889) and contemporary literary accounts of Java by Louis Couperus (De Stille Kracht, 1900), Bas Veth (Het Leven in Nederlandsch Indië, 1900), Augusta de Wit (Orpheus of the Desa and The Goddess who Waits, 1903) as well as several titles by Henry Borel, known for his writings on China and Buddhism.25

COLONIAL RESPONSE TO KARTINI’S MESSAGE The broad suite of progressive cultural and social ideas embodied by these individuals and embedded in the literature available to Kartini inevitably came to shape her perception of the world and her own aspirations, and featured explicitly in her presentation of herself and her ideas and aspirations in writing. However, her correspondents – notwithstanding their ideological commitment to and sometimes direct involvement in social change in the metropole and some aspects of political reform in the colony – including the prominent socialist-feminist van Kol couple, were all disinclined to support the kind of radical change in the colony that Kartini’s writing implied.26 This is perhaps unsurprising, since the all male correspondents – Henry van Kol, Abendanon, Abendanon Junior, Adriani, Anton – were somehow linked to the colonial regime. Before entering parliament, van Kol had anonymously published an account of Java (which Kartini admired) that explicitly rejected radical proposals for Dutch withdrawal as not being in the interests of the Javanese (Rienzi 1896). Abendanon, Adriani and Gonggrijp wanted only to liberalize colonial policy to ‘educate’ the colonial subject, and Anton explicitly stated he had come to Java to study the colonial system, which he greatly admired. Three of the women were spouses of influential ‘colonial’ men, and only Nellie van Kol could be said to have held a public position – she had edited an influential women’s journal for many years – from which she could have exerted an influence.27 Privately (in a letter dated 28 December 1900), Hilda de Booij, the young Anglo-Dutch wife of the governor general’s adjutant, confided to her mother that she could well understand how the Europeans in the colony, frustrated by existing policies and practice, might wish to lead a revolution against the undemocratic nature of colonial government (Archief Familie de Booij n.d.), but that empathy did not extend to its colonial subjects. Collectively, these reformers aimed to achieve a more ‘civilized’ colonial society through the gradual restructuring of its institutional and cultural frameworks. This was in line with the ‘deugdzaam liberalisme’ that dominated reformist thinking in the contemporary Netherlands.28 Entrenched colonial

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and feudal Javanese interests strenuously opposed even this, however, as threatening the colonial modus vivendi that had evolved in Java in the course of the nineteenth century. This dominant political climate in the colony is a clearly identifiable factor in the central issue of the Kartini correspondence: the education of Javanese girls. Kartini’s aspirations were thwarted by not only Resident of Semarang Piet Sijthoff, the local head of the colonial administration of the province she lived in, but also her uncle, reputedly one of the foremost ‘enlightened’ regents of Java. Respectively representative of colonial and aristocratic Javanese tradition, and together representative of the colonial status quo, both these figures worked to maintain the very social and cultural structures Kartini was attempting to transform. In her private correspondence, however, she was able to thoroughly demolish them with withering sarcasm for the former and scathing criticism for the latter, thus giving the lie to the description of her prose as being overly flowery. Regardless of her friends’ earnest intentions and the logic of the discourse they apparently subscribed to, the force of colonial tradition was both clearly evident and impossible to dislodge. Jacques Henri Abendanon was specially appointed to introduce a measure of reform in the colonial education system, but his plan to promote the ‘education of native girls’ was resoundingly rejected in 1900. His argument that ‘it is an undeniable fact that . . . Native society cannot march forcefully ahead’29 in the absence of educated women was vehemently opposed by colonial and Javanese officials alike (van der Wal 1963: 9–14). The majority of the latter, in response to a questionnaire on the issue, were opposed on the grounds that it was against tradition, while the former argued that The number of young people educated in the Western manner is still extremely limited; the girls who will partake of European education will expect to marry young men similarly educated; this will not always be possible and deep disappointment will be the consequence. Furthermore, such native girls will have developed needs which a Native official of a lower rank – not all girls can marry regents, patihs or wedonos – cannot provide form his limited income. Unhappy marriages will result. (van der Wal 1963: 12)30

This superficially plausible argument by the colonial bureaucracy, ostensibly expressing its sensitivity to Javanese tradition and awareness of conceptions of ‘modern marriages’, was in essence predicated on a critique of ‘the new woman’ – the ‘demivierge’ – a target of fin de siècle ‘anti-modernists’ such as Max Nordau and Otto Weininger (Karl 1988: 86–90). Transferred to the context of the colony, conservatives saw the ‘new woman’ as taking the form of the ‘native woman with modern Western appetites’. Kartini herself was the object of such criticism, and it created the image within which


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her critics succeeded in entrapping her.31 Her correspondence contains critical references to the spokeswoman of the conservative wing of the Dutch women’s movement, Anna de Savornin Lohman;32 sympathetic comments regarding Joanna de Woude, the editor of De Hollandsche Lelie, the Dutch women’s journal to which Kartini subscribed;33 mockery of Resident Piet Sijthof, and enthusiastic discussion of the heroines of Hilda van Suylenberg and Barthold Meryam, clearly demonstrating how thoroughly conversant she was with the nuances of the contemporary (European) debate on gender. In the end, even Kartini’s colonial supporters subscribed to the image created by her detractors when it became clear that Kartini might, against all odds, secure financing for further education in the Netherlands. Each of her correspondents for whom direct evidence exists – Abendanon, Nellie van Kol, Adriani and Stella Zeehandelaar – agreed or acquiesced to an outcome that eventually led to her polygamous marriage and denied her the chance to become, as they saw it, that ‘new woman’. Their shared concern was perhaps most clearly expressed by Nicolaus Adriani in a letter to Nellie van Kol, who herself hesitated to support the arrangements her husband had made for Kartini and her sister Roekmini to study abroad: Arriving in Holland she might, because of a change in climate, diet and lifestyle, also have physical problems. Her state of mind, which is rather unsettled, as well as her mental faculties and studies could be tested to the limit. The possibility of mental indigestion is not far fetched. Furthermore, the girls are not strong . . . I really worry about these dear girls. Their parents are not able to give them sufficient moral support. They themselves are ready for anything but in fact are not capable of everything, even though undoubtedly they are very talented. If they do not come under very experienced and loving care, someone who knows how to ensure they do not become caught up in fashion, will not be invited out to all kinds of parties which would only wear out their nerves, who would prevent them from trying to take on everything at once and ensure they don’t study too hard, that they take great care in their clothing, diet and lifestyle, and that they practice self-control, then I foresee a lot of misery and that would pain me greatly. (Cited in Bouman 1954: 55–56)34

TOWARDS AN ALTERNATIVE MODERNITY ‘Colonial reformers’ such as those with whom Kartini corresponded were ultimately unwilling to uphold the implications of their principles when it came to colonialism and readily resorted to more paternalistic models of gradual reform. But wholesale acceptance of a reformist Western discourse was equally problematic for ‘cultural nationalists’. Ultimately, Kartini’s deci-

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sion to decline the offer to study in the Netherlands – and eventually also a scholarship to train as a teacher in Batavia – appears to accord with Kartini’s own gradual reassessment of her initial, Western-feminist-inspired goals. Despite two convincing memoranda she had written in the first months of 1903 on the need to expand Western education, her deferral, albeit reluctantly and initially under some duress, to Javanese convention in accepting marriage suggests a growing appreciation of what a Javanese modernity might constitute. A close reading of the Kartini correspondence reveals four contemporary colonial ‘models’ of a ‘modern Javanese woman’: the good, traditional Javanese ‘feudal’ woman, such as her older sister, stepmother and her sister’s mother-in-law; the Europeanized Javanese woman that Kartini’s Javanese critics faulted her for aspiring to become; the ‘new Javanese woman’ – more specifically the ‘new Sundanese woman’, whom Kartini critiqued – who had received a European education providing European accomplishments but remained essentially ‘morally deficient’; and the ‘modern Javanese woman’, who was both educated and morally transformed. Kartini regarded herself as having become the latter, a model she perceived as essential to the transformation of Javanese society. European versions of each of these models were readily available and discussed in detail in contemporary Dutch (European) feminist and conservative discourse, on which Kartini drew in formulating her ideals – and she rehearsed much of this herself in her letters. But Kartini was not writing simply in response to her reading of European feminist literature, but also in response to visible changes in colonial society that were widely reported in the colonial press. This evidence of the emerging transformation of her Javanese world inspired her own goals for personal development. Conscious of the obligations that inhered in her elite Javanese background, Kartini increasingly bundled her personal hopes into a broader aim to channel the newly emerging modernizing tendencies and opportunities. Kartini’s elaboration of how Javanese girls should be educated and how she herself could best deploy the fruits of Western education was not simply an issue of applying European formulae. The appropriation of ‘education’, indeed, presented cultural nationalists with a fundamental dilemma that became increasingly apparent to Kartini as her options rapidly narrowed. The broader context of her correspondence makes clear that Kartini struggled to resolve the questions of how ‘Javanese-ness’ was to be retained and defined in modernity, and how the Javanese woman was to become a better Javanese. Kartini’s model school would not be like a ‘school’ as she had experienced it, but more like a family35 in which intellectual learning was integrated with ‘domestic learning’ and various ages and abilities could intermingle.


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Her emphasis on ‘domestic economy’ in both of her 1903 memoranda on the need for education reveals that Kartini had found an equivalent model – that is, a Western educational concept that went beyond the existing colonial idea of education– that would allow the education of Javanese women as Javanese.36 Although partly necessitated by circumstances, these same terms ultimately dictated Kartini’s redrawing of the ambitious plans she had defined in the course of 1901 and 1902 to gain a broad liberal education in the Netherlands as she herself came to realize the logic of her cultural argument (see Coté 2008).37 The discourse of modernity – of new ideas about culture and society – resisted by conservative and traditionally privileged ‘colonized’ interests, was therefore equally problematic for ‘cultural nationalists’, though in a different way; in any case, neither group could directly appropriate the full implications of Western modernity. In this sense, the full text of Kartini’s extant correspondence from May 1899 to September 1904 represents, beyond a biographical narrative, an example of the complex and tortuous process cultural nationalists experienced in constructing an alternative discourse of modernity. The ‘modernity’ the letters evinced could be readily appropriated by a contemporary ‘progressive’ readership and ultimately celebrated by the wider international feminist movement because of its reference to a recognizable Western feminist discourse. Kartini’s thoughts were all the more accessible to a Western readership throughout the century because they were expressed via the modern medium of the individualized, personalized private letter. Fortuitously, this medium was the very means of political action to which Kartini was largely restricted. Viewing the correspondence, in all its emotional and intellectual, argumentative and seductive qualities, as ‘action’ – that is, an act of political intent – at once also recognizes the limited options available to this young, unmarried, rural, priyayi woman. It also points to the way she, and the first generation of ‘cultural nationalists’, hoped to achieve their objectives: via ‘association’.38 The ‘action’, then, primarily took the form of educating susceptible colonial representatives – in Kartini’s case, her small group of influential Dutch (and Dutch colonial) correspondents – to entice supporters to the quest to attain equal status for Javanese in a modern international world. Her brother, Raden Sosrokartono, had adopted the same strategy in a speech of 1899 that gained fame as the first direct appeal to the Dutch nation by a colonial subject in Europe (Poeze 1986: 29–32). Other Western-educated male Indonesian voices emerging in the course of the first decade of the century expressed similar views. They too presented themselves as spokesmen to the colonizer – and more spe-

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cifically to an increasingly politicized and ‘aware’ metropolitan European public – representing the aspirations of those who could not speak. For this educated and elite group, the language of modernity shaped the intellectual formulation of a future emancipation, which therefore demanded expression in the same terms. Even so, it was not long before such ideas were being expressed in the languages of the archipelago.39 These modernizers were also involved in a parallel process of making contact with an emerging kaum muda – the new generation of nationally oriented colonized subjects who together aspired to national autonomy. Kartini’s involvement in this early attempt to give voice to a national consciousness is effectively obscured in the 1911 publication, but sufficient remaining references point to it as one of her key preoccupations. It involved, above all, communication with her brother Kartono in the Netherlands. Struggling to establish himself at Leiden University, he became a major influence on the founders of Oost en West Vereeniging, the first private Dutch lobbying group for promoting knowledge about and support for colonial reform. Through Kartono, Kartini became aware of the thinking of the small group of privileged Indonesians studying in the Netherlands who were beginning to write about an Indonesian future.40 Four years after Kartini’s death, they established the first informal Indonesian organization dedicated to discussing the future of their Indies; in Java, meanwhile, Kartini’s sisters worked to establish a similar organization in her memory, which they merged into their support of the first specifically nationalist organization in colonial Indonesia, Budi Utomo, established in the same year.41 Of more immediate significance are references indicating that Kartini maintained correspondence with young men enrolled in the colony’s three vocational institutions for training an expanding cadre of indigenous doctors and civil servants, respectively the STOVIA and OSVIA.42 Through them, Kartini gained an awareness of wider developments amongst the new generation of Javanese and other Indonesian leaders in the capital, Batavia.43 One direct reference to this appears in an undated letter fragment included in a memoir by Kartini’s Dutch mentor, Marie Ovink-Soer. In it, Kartini writes: We have won so many to our cause, the young generation is completely at one with us. Oh, you should read the letters from our idealistic little soldiers, young people who will one day be working amongst the people. They celebrate with us. They call me ‘Sister’. Their older sister to whom they can always turn when they need support and encouragement. New members are continually seeking to join our group. The top student of all the three HBS schools this year is once again an Inlander, a Sumatran from Riouw. He is in complete affinity with my ideas, his aim is also to work for his people. Oh, it is wonderful to have such an


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important goal in our sights and to see it gradually coming closer. (Ovink-Soer 1925: 24)44

CONCLUSION Many writers have highlighted the ultimate tragedy of the Kartini narrative, if not in terms of Kartini’s consignment to a polygamous marriage, then of her untimely death following the birth of her child. However, the trajectory that led to this end – although of course not the end (her death) itself – arguably represented a transitional resolution of the conundrum the colonized subject faced, which at the time neither Kartini nor even her male contemporaries in subsequent decades were able to adequately resolve: how to reconcile modernity, projected as the exclusive legacy of Western civilization, with Javanese identity. This suggests also that the standard account of the ‘Kartini tragedy’ – her ultimate ‘capitulation’ in assenting to a polygamous marriage – as a failed attempt in the construction of modernity represents a peculiarly Western interpretation.45 Viewed more broadly in terms of a ‘national history’, Kartini’s construction of a strategic network through her correspondence suggests her story may be more accurately described as an initial ‘first step’ to articulate and manifest an alternative modernity.46 Examined against this broader background and reading between the lines, as it were, the correspondence gains increased significance. The corpus of letters can be read as a process of ‘trying out’ her ideas and ways to effectively communicate them – that is, of differing strategies for ‘political lobbying’. Assuming a trajectory into adulthood (though it was not to be), the correspondence can also be seen as a means of ‘trying out’ in private what would later be set out in public. In this sense it is important to recognize the correspondence not just as narrating a series of setbacks to Kartini’s personal hopes for further education but as part of a broader national process of negotiation in the construction of a modern national identity. The historical moment of Kartini’s writing, then, can be situated in a longer historical process involving an attempt by a growing circle of writers and activists to resolve the problem of integrating a Javanese cultural identity into the dominant contemporary world view defined by Western ideals. In her own narrative, truncated by her death, the path of this evolution is uncertain, although her final published correspondence as a married woman appears to point towards a resolution. Certainly the subsequent history described in her sisters’ correspondence reveals how the trajectory they had shared with her developed towards a more clearly defined and

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confident Javanese modernity (Coté 2008). However, history also tells us that this particular modernizing trajectory ultimately clashed with, and was increasingly sidelined by, a more aggressive political rhetoric that was less accommodating of Western influence and broader in its geographical and ethnic scope. By the 1930s, Kartini’s sibling Soematri, married to a leading conservative Javanese politician, found the new Indonesian world of young nationalist activists unintelligible, worrying and indeed unacceptable (ibid.).47 In any event, as Dipesh Chakrabarty has suggested, no attempt to find a way of integrating the two worlds, and thus appeasing the demands of both cultural nationalism and Western modernity, was likely to have been adequately resolved (Chakrabarty 1999). The modern colonized subject, he suggests, struggled constantly to express his or her identity in a way that was ‘amenable to global-European constructions of modernity so that the quintessentially nationalist claim of being “different yet modern” [could] appear valid’ (ibid.: 1).. Such a colonial subject was eternally trapped in a ‘difference-deferral’ binary. The need to escape that conundrum arguably made it inevitable that a cultural nationalism movement be superseded by a ‘revolutionary’ political one. By analogy, here we also arrive at recognition of the dilemma Kartini faced. Inspired as she was by the radical version of a European discourse on women’s emancipation, she came to appreciate that a modern Javanese discourse could not directly appropriate it. Ultimately, despite all the apparent paraphrasing of current European discourse, the reader of her correspondence is forced to recognize Kartini’s insistence on ‘difference’. As Chakrabarty argues with reference to nineteenth-century Bengali modernity in general, escaping the tutelage of colonialism to ‘participate in what was seen as a world-community of peoples and nations’ (ibid.: 4) hinged on reconstructing traditional conceptions of public and private domains as modern in a way that nevertheless allowed them to retain their distinctive identity as Bengali. It was this cultural consciousness that would ultimately become the foundation of political nationalism. But the final definition of what this difference was to constitute, Chakrabarty declares, had always to be deferred, as its proponents remained caught between the desire for modernity and equal recognition in a world system on the one hand, and the imperative of culture on the other. Charting this ambiguity is a significant challenge for the historian, Chakrabarty warns, that can only be savoured through extended, sensitive access to the ‘artifacts that narrate “the private” in “public” eg., novels, autobiographies, diaries, letters etc.’ (ibid.: 3). Here, he argues, beyond the public world dominated by colonialism (and men),


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the ‘modern non-citizen’ could attempt to start construction of a new civil society. Yet even in this domestic sphere there was no autonomy, as Kartini was all too aware: it too was being penetrated by Western modernity as new models of the modern spouse, the mother and the housekeeper were increasingly employed as templates for assessing ‘civilization’, defining the criteria for what should constitute modernity. The publication of a selection of edited Kartini correspondence was intended to define a trajectory by which Javanese women could become ‘modern’ in the manner modelled in Dutch households, manuals and fictional accounts in Dutch literature, as autochthonous models did not yet exist at the beginning of the twentieth century and, indeed, were only gradually defined publicly in later decades (Hatley and Blackburn 2000). It was not simply the institutional obstacles of colonialism and feudalism that prevented Kartini from realizing such aspirations at the outset of the twentieth century: she herself was beginning to question this Eurocentric trajectory. Most immediately, her self-questioning is evident in her constant expression of concern about how to retain the respect of her father, reunite with her estranged stepmother and, more generally, retain acceptance in ‘Javanese society’ and yet be modern. This problem, running throughout the correspondence, can be seen as a metaphor for the wider challenge of how the new ideas were to be integrated with a Javanese identity. The 1911 publication’s framing of Kartini’s ‘Gedachten’ obscures the fact that her well-intentioned European friends persuaded Kartini not to go to Europe and to accept marriage – in other words, to retreat from this claim to ‘modernity’. It equally obscures the evolution of her own thinking towards a sense of an alternative Javanese modern-ness, although in this she was herself complicit. This extant collection of letters, then, provides a glimpse of two moments in competing Dutch and Javanese processes of cultural reconstruction within the context of colonialism. Kartini’s retreat from the persona she had initially been so keen (and so successfully able) to create,48 to one that began to model a modernity more integral to Javanese society, a process prematurely ended by her death, can too easily be interpreted, in line with Kartini’s colonial friends’ views, as an inevitable ‘failure’. The original publication of part of her correspondence as Door Duisternis tot Licht (From Darkness to Light) intentionally leaves the reader with the impression that obscurant forces within colonial and Javanese society defeated a defenceless Kartini. This tragic story was a powerful weapon for a colonial reform lobby determined to ‘educate the native’, but it is only partly true. The real story suggests a valiant attempt to develop a vocabulary for, and a trajectory towards, a national autonomy predicated on the need to develop an autonomous national consciousness.

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REFERENCES Adam, A. 1995. The Vernacular Press and the Emergence of Modern Indonesian Consciousness (1855–1913). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Adriani, A.E. and H. Kaemer. 1935. I: Dr. N. Adriani: Schets van leven en arbeid. II: Dr. N. Adriani zooals wij hem zien uit zijn brieven. Amsterdam: H.J. Paris. Appadurai, A. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ‘Archief Familie de Booij’. Retrieved 15 September 2013 from http://www.egoproject .nl/archief-debooijfamilie/H.G%20de%20Booij-Boissevain.htm Bel, J. 1993. Nederlandse literatuur in het fin de siècle. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Berman, L. 1998. Speaking through the Silence: Narratives, Social Conventions and Power in Java. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bloembergen, M. and R. Raben (eds). 2009. Het koloniale beschavingsoffensief: wegen naar het nieuwe Indië. Leiden: KITLV Press. Bouman, H. 1954. Meer licht over Kartini. Paris and Amsterdam: HJ Paris. Chakrabarty, D. 1999. ‘The Difference-Deferral of (A) Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domesticity in British Bengal’, History Workshop 36: 1–34. ———. 2000. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chatterjee, P. 1993. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Coté, J. 2000. ‘Celebrating Women’s Labour: Raden Ajeng Kartini and the Dutch Women’s Exhbition, 1898’, in M. Grever and F. Dieteren (eds), Een vaderland voor vrouwen: A Fatherland for Women: The 1898 ‘Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid’ in Retrospect. Amsterdam: IISG/IIVA, pp. 119–35. ———. 2005. On Feminism and Nationalism: Kartini’s Letters to Stella Zeehandelaar. Clayton: Monash Asia Institute. ———. 2008. Realizing the Dream of R.A. Kartini: Her Sisters’ Letters from Colonial Java. Athens: Ohio University Press. De Regt, A. 1984. Arbeidsgezinnen en beschavingsarbeid: Ontwikkelingen in Nederland 1870–1940: Een historische-sociologische studie. Amsterdam: Boom Meppel. Dolk, L. 1993. Twee zielen, twee gedachten: Tijdschriften en intellectuelen op Java, 1900– 1957. Leiden: KITLV. Dudink, S. 1997. Deugdzaam liberalisme: Sociaal-liberalisme in Nederland 1870–1901. Amsterdam: IISG. Gonggrijp, G.L. 1944 [1913]. Brieven van Opheffer: Aan de redactie van het Bataviaasche Handelsblad. Maastricht: NV Leiter-Nypels. Grever, M. and F. Dieteren (eds). 2000. Een vaderland voor vrouwen: A Fatherland for Women: The 1898 ‘Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid’ in Retrospect. Amsterdam: IISG/IIVA. Hatley, B. and S. Blackburn. 2000. ‘Representations of Women’s Roles in Household and Society in Indonesian Women’s Writing of the 1930s’, in J. Koning,


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et al. (eds), Women and Households in Indonesia: Cultural Notions and Social Practices. Richmond, UK: Curzon Press. Hutchinson, J. 1999. ‘Re-Interpreting Cultural Nationalism’, Australian Journal of Politics and History 45(3): 392–407. Karl, F. 1988. Modern and Modernism: The Sovereignty of the Artist (1855–1925). New York: Atheneum. Kartini, R.A. 1903. ‘Van een vergeten uithoekje’, Eigen Haard (January): 12–15. ———. 1976. Door Duisternis tot Licht: Gedachten over en voor het Javaanse volk, ed. E. Allard and J.H. Abendanon. Amsterdam: Gé Nabrink & Zn. Knuvelder, G. 1962. Beknopt handboek tot de geschiedenis der Nederlandse letterkunde. Hertogenbosch: LCG Malmberg. Mohamad, G. 2004. ‘Kartini Sebuah Persona’, in V.I. Yulianto (ed.), Aku mau: feminisme dan nasionalisme: surat-surat Kartini kepada Stella Zeehandelaar. Yogyakarta: IPR/Kompas Media, pp. 7–19. Nagazumi, A. 1972. The Dawn of Indonesian Nationalism: The Early Years of the Budi Utomo, 1908–1918. Tokyo: Institute of Developing Economies. Ovink-Soer, M. 1904. ‘Raden Ajoe Djojo Adiningrat: In Memoriam’, De Hollandsche Lelie 18(10): 339–44. ———. 1925. ‘Persoonlijke herinnering aan Raden-Ajeng Kartini’, Vrije Arbeid (May): 3–36 (Leiden: KITLV Archive, H 897:20). Poeze, H. 1986. In het land van de overheerser: Indonesiërs in Nederland 1600–1950. Dordrecht: Foris. Ricklefs, M.C. 2001. A Modern History of Indonesia since c. 1200. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ———. 2007. Polarising Javanese Society: Islamic and Other Visions (c.1830–1930). Singapore: NUS Press. Rienzi, M.R. 1896. Land en volk van Java. Maastricht: Pieters. Röling, H.Q. and B. Reinalda. 2008 [2001]. ‘Porreij, Jacoba Maria Petronella (Nellie)’, Biografische Woordenboek van het Socialisme en de Arbeidersbeweging in Nederland. Retrieved 20 January 2011 from http://www.iisg.nl/bwsa/bios/porreij.html Scherer, S.P. 1975. Harmony and Dissonance: Early Nationalist Thought in Java. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University. Steringa, P. 2010. ‘Woude, Johanna van’, Stichting Dodenakkers. Retrieved 20 January 2011 from http://www.dodenakkers.nl/beroemd/letteren/216-woude.html Stuurman, S. 1983. Verzuiling, kapitalisme and patriachaat: Aspecten van de ontwikkleing van de moderne staat in Nederland. Nijmegen: SUN Uitgeverij. ———. 1992. ‘Wacht op ons daden’: Het liberalisme en de vernieuwing van de Nederlandse staat. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker. Toer, P.A. 1985. Sang Pemula. Jakarta: Hasta Pemula. Van der Wal, S.L. (ed.). 1963. Het onderwijsbeleid in Nederlands-Indië 1900–40. Groningen: J.B. Wolters. Van Miert, H. 1991. Bevlogenheid en onvermogen: Mr J.H. Abendanon en de ethische richting in het Nederlandse kolonialisme. Leiden: KITLV Press. ———. 1995. Een koel hoofd en een warm hart: Nationalisme, Javanisme en jeugdbeweging in Nederlands-Indië. Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw.

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NOTES 1. Adam (1995: Appendix E) identifies eighty-eight vernacular-language newspapers and periodicals established between 1900 and 1913. See also Ricklefs (2007: 126–73) for a summary of ‘new horizons’ for the period 1870–1925. 2. Adam (1995) identifies the emergence of a discourse of ‘kemajuan’ (progress) in late-nineteenth-century publications. 3. Toer (1985) emphasizes pioneer Indonesian (Javanese) journalist Tirto Adhi Soerjo’s concern for women’s issues after 1905. 4. Two notable extended studies of ‘Javanese nationalism’ are Scherer (1975), van Miert (1995). More recently the question has been addressed in Ricklefs (2007). 5. Appadurai’s examination (1996) of the contemporary globalization of culture and of ‘cultural flows’ provides a relevant framework for historians of colonialism. 6. Chatterjee points to the complexities of women’s writing, which framed a new nationalism even as it had to resist ‘new forms of patriarchy’. 7. Berman (1998), exploring the politics of women ‘speaking’ in contemporary Javanese contexts, has relevance to an examination of the ‘Javanese-ness’ of Kartini’s Dutch-language writings that cannot be pursued here. 8. A queen of Jepara, Ratu Kalinyamat, is reputed to have sent a naval fleet to support an attack against the Portuguese conquerors of Malacca. Kartini makes mention of the days when Jepara was known for its horse racing. 9. This becomes the central conceit of Kartini’s (1903) published short story, Van een vergeten uithoekje (From a Forgotten Corner). 10. In an early letter (to Stella, 25 May 1899) she proudly notes she is ‘in advance’ of Dutch (Eurasian) women in the colony. 11. Two older siblings, her oldest brother and oldest sister, appear not to have undertaken much Western education. 12. This included De Locomotief, the leading colonial progressive daily; De Gids, the leading Dutch progressive social and cultural journal; Wetenschapplelijke Bladen, a journal of popular science; De Hollandsche Lelie, a Dutch women’s journal; Belang en Recht, a new journal discussing feminist legal issues, and Nederlandsch Taal, a new colonial journal established to promote the Dutch language. 13. Marie Ovink-Soer, a minor Dutch writer and contributor to women’s journals, was later best known as author of children’s books. She published two memoirs of her association with Kartini. 14. See Grever and Dieteren (2000) for a detailed account of the women’s exhibition. 15. After rejecting Ovink-Soer’s suggestion to consider work in a mission hospital, Kartini asserts her desire to study in Europe against the Abendanons’ suggestion that she become a teacher. Later, having accepted the idea of being a teacher, she insists on proper training. She attempts to delay her marriage to complete teacher training in Batavia. Eventually Kartini rationalizes her position as a married woman in terms of a future as an educator of the region’s elite


16. 17.









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families, an objective her sister Kardinah also achieves. See Coté (2000) for a detailed discussion of these disputes. Beyond the specifically religious revival, a broader ‘moral reform’ affected political, social and cultural movements. See for instance Dudink (1997). Long the editor of the feminist journal De Vrouw, Nellie van Kol had led the women’s protest movement against the Aceh War. At the time of Kartini’s writings to her, she had moved significantly towards the Christian evangelical movement; she later joined the Salvation Army, continuing her involvement in children’s education (Röling and Reinalda 2008 [2001]). Approximately the same age as Kartini, Hilda de Booy-Boissevain, wife of the adjutant to the governor general, whose mother was English, was representative of the contemporary modern European middle class. She later helped publicize Kartini’s ‘thoughts’ amongst Dutch ladies to obtain financial support for the ‘Kartini schools’ (see Archief familie de Booij). Van Kol, leader of the parliamentary wing of the moderate socialist party (SDAP), had written the party’s colonial policy platform and was the parliament’s most outspoken advocate of colonial reform. Jacques Abendanon, a leading legal bureaucrat and member of the prominent Batviaasche Genootschap, the colony’s leading cultural and scientific forum, had been specifically appointed to the education department to introduce reform (see van Miert 1991). Adriani, an academic linguist attached to the Protestant mission in Central Sulawesi, was associated with Abendanon via the Batavaasche Genootschap and later cooperated with him on a series of colonial education conferences. Though involved in the ‘modernization’ policies of the mission, he was critical of conventional colonial policy (Adriani and Kaemer 1935). G.K. Anton, professor of politics at Jena University, Germany, visited Java as part of an inspection tour of Dutch colonial practice in which he praised newer developments. He published a treatise recommending German-Dutch unity, Ein Zolbündnis mit den Nederlanden’, in 1902 and one on modern German colonial policy in 1908. Although not directly represented, G.L. Gonggrijp, assistant resident of Jepara and later resident of Rembang, is mentioned as a correspondent and as being in regular contact with Kartini in both Jepara and Rembang. He became famous for a series of anonymous ‘letters’ initially published in a colonial newspaper critical of colonial policy and later as Brieven van Opheffer (1913). While not a correspondent, references suggest that Marie Ovink-Soer’s husband, like Gonggrijp, was representative of the ‘new colonialism’ that inspired Kartini to believe in the possibility of change. A further group of Dutch correspondents (not included) expressing interest in Javanese arts and crafts included the president of Oost en West Vereeniging, Nellie van Zuylen-Tromp, with whom Kartini’s brother was also associated. For an overview of fin de siècle Dutch and Dutch-colonial literature and literary criticism see Bel (1993).

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26. ‘Reform’ in any event was official policy of the Protestant Anti-revolutionnaire Partij government and had been included in its platform since the 1880s. 27. Stella was active within the Dutch Socialist Democratic Workers party and Marie Ovink-Soer became known as a minor writer. It may be that Rosa Abendanon-Mandri was the influence behind the throne in relation to her husband’s attempt to reform colonial education policy. 28. Dudink argues that ‘social liberalism was deeply embedded in a set of moral assumptions [that] postulated the importance of individual morality for achieving social harmony and coherence’ (Dudink 1997: 299). 29. Director of Education, Religion and Industry to Governor General (Roosenboom), 31 October 1901. 30. The negative response to Abendanon’s proposal noted specifically: ‘The position of the girl and the woman in [Native] society indeed means that at the moment there exists no need for her to receive a European education and development. . . . First one would need to work towards the further education of the man for should one not do this and should one follow the direction you advise, then an imbalance would be created in native society which would result in the most tragic situations in social and married life’ (Memorandum, First Government Secretary, 19 December 1901, in van der Wal 1963: 12). 31. E.g., Kartini’s correspondence refers to gossip suggesting she is out to catch a European husband. 32. Baroness Catherine Anna de Savornin Lohman (1868–1930), a ‘Christian feminist’, criticized ‘radical feminism’ in several publications between 1896 and 1903. 33. Accused of attempting to murder her estranged husband, Woude became the target of much critical gossip (Steringa 2010). 34. Abendanon persuaded Kartini to decline the offer of the government scholarship van Kol had convinced the Dutch parliament to grant her. Stella also accepted that it was better for Kartini to stay in Java (Bouman 1954: 59), although she assumed this meant an education in Batavia, not the marriage subsequently contracted (Coté 2005: 14–15). Marie Ovink-Soer had never supported the idea; nor, it seems, had Rosa Abendanon-Mandri, both of whom appear to have attempted to dissuade her. 35. Kartini’s image of her ideal school oscillates between a family image (‘we will have a school where our children will not only call us “mother” out of politeness, but because they see and feel us to be mothers’, Letter to Mev. AbendanonMandri, 2 September 1902) and a more strategic ‘policy-directed’ image (‘to establish a school for daughters of the native aristocracy’, Letter to Adriani, 24 September 1902). Dutch initiators of the ‘Kartini school’ referred to the latter model. 36. Chakrabarty emphasizes the ubiquity of a discourse of ‘domestic science’, cleanliness and hygiene in the Bengali literature he cites. Though an ideal of contemporary European feminists, in retrospect this discourse has been judged critically as merely confirming an updated version of ‘women’s role’.


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37. Significantly, Kartini’s sister Kardinah established a girls’ school in Tegal on a model that more closely followed Katini’s ideas and was initially critical of Dutch plans for the Semarang Kartini school, which focused on ‘accomplishments’ (Coté 2008). 38. Modernization through ‘association’ was a concept that evolved on both sides of the colonial relationship in the course of the first decade of the century. As ‘colonial policy’, it was most clearly articulated by Snouk Hurgronje, whose views on the status of Javanese women Kartini strongly criticized. For colonial cultural policy, see a recent discussion in Bloembergen and Raben (2009). 39. As Adam and Toer, show, the two pioneering professional Indonesian journalists Abdul Ravai and Tirto Adhi Soerjo defined an indigenous ‘progressive’ class, a ‘kaum muda’, equivalent to that in the Netherlands and adapted a ‘new language’ (Malay) to articulate their aspirations. 40. Besides several Javanese ‘princes’, such as RMA Koesoema Joedha, this group also included Abdul Ravai, the Tehupeiory brothers and Mas Abdullah, son of the nominal founder of Budi Utomo. These pioneers were all involved in early Netherlands-based Dutch and Malay language publications, such as ‘Soerat Tjerita’, Bandera Wolanda and Bintang Hindia (Poeze 1986: 23–51), and largely aspired to ‘associate’ with Dutch progressives on colonial reform. 41. The Indische Vereeniging, established in 1908 and often described as a ‘social club’, provided a venue for discussion of modern solutions to the colonial situation. Like the celebrated Budi Utomo founded in the same year in Java, it attracted a generation of progressive, Western-educated modernizers. Seen in retrospect as conservative, these two groups represented the first organizational and intellectual formulations of cultural nationalism. Kartini’s sisters were amongst Budi Utomo’s first female members; their brother Kartono was a member of the Indische Vereeniging. 42. STOVIA, School tot Opleiding van Inlandsche Artsen (School for the Training of Native Doctors) and OSVIA, Opleidingsschool voor Inlandsche Ambtenaren (Training School for Native Civil Servants) were the highest-level Dutchlanguage educational institutions in the colony. 43. See Nagazumi (1972) for an account of STOVIA students. For an account of Kartini’s sisters’ contact with its founders, see Coté (2008: 136–44). 44. Undated letter extract included in Ovink-Soer (1925: 24) and Kartini (1976: 426). Kartini also refers to Agus Salim and nominates him as the person to whom her scholarship should be transferred (Kartini to Mevrouw AbendanonMandri, 24 July 1903). 45. Kartini also depicted her impending marriage in these terms – as representing her failure to be a modern woman – declaring that it made her ‘no better than all the rest’, that is, that she would now become just an ordinary Javanese again (Kartini to Rosa Abendanon-Mandri, 14 July 1903). This can be explained as Kartini maintaining the tenor of the feminist discourse she had established with Rose since 1900. Subsequent letters, however, show Kartini expressing a new sense of her Javanese-ness.

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46. Ricklefs (2001) uses this term to cover the period up to 1927. A more detailed account would indicate a series of progressive steps towards a more radical nationalism. 47. Kartini’s second-youngest sister, Kartinah, disappears from the ‘modernist narrative’ of Dutch-language correspondence soon after her marriage, suggesting she choose a different path, intentionally or otherwise (see Coté 2008). 48. Goenawan Mohamad develops the idea of Kartini’s ‘persona’ in his foreword to Vissia Yulianto’s Aku Mau (Mohamad 2004).

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