Realizing the dream of R.A. Kartini: Her sister’s letters from colonial Java

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Realizing the dream of R. A. Kartini; Her sisters’ letters from colonial Java presents a unique collection of documents reflecting the lives, attitudes, and politics of four Javanese women in the early twentieth century. Joost J. Coté translates the correspondence between Raden Ajeng Kartini, Indonesia’s first feminist, and her sisters, revealing for the first time her sisters’ contributions in defining and carrying out her ideals. With this collection, Coté aims to situate Kartini’s sisters within the more famous Kartini narrative – and indirectly to situate Kartini herself within a broader narrative. The letters reveal the emotional lives of these modern women and their concerns for the welfare of their husbands and the success of their children in rapidly changing times. While by no means radical nationalists, and not yet extending their horizons to the possibility of an Indonesian nation, these members of a new middle class nevertheless confidently express their belief in their own national identity. Realizing the dream of R. A. Kartini is essential reading for scholars of Indonesian history, providing documentary evidence of the culture of modern, urban Java in the late colonial era and an insight into the ferment of the Indonesian nationalist movement in which these women and their husbands played representative roles. Joost J. Coté is a senior lecturer in history at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of On feminism and nationalism; Kartini’s letters to Stella Zeehandelaar and coeditor of Recalling the Indies; Colonial memories and postcolonial identities.

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