A Story of a Javenese Princess

This might be a few days too late but: Happy Kartini day! For those of you who don’t know, every year on the 21st of April, we Indonesians celebrate Kartini day. Women in Indonesia would wear kebaya – a traditional Indonesian attire for women – and schools would hold celebrations to commemorate the day.

A brief history of Raden Ajeng Kartini: she was a daughter of a prominent aristocratic family in Jepara when Indonesia was still part of the East Indies. She was married off as a fourth wife when she was twenty four years old, had a son and died a year later at the age of twenty five.

Obviously, these aren’t the reasons why she became one of the most celebrated women in Indonesia.

Raden Ajeng Kartini or R.A. Kartini was a daughter and – for a brief moment – a mother. But most of all, she was a woman. She was a full-blooded Javanese woman who had full understanding of the cultural customs in Indonesia. She was a woman who understood the struggles that women faced at that time. The lack of education opportunities, lack of autonomy and also lack of legal equality.

She’s the person we Indonesian women need to thank because if it was not for her we wouldn’t be able to have a proper education or even have a career.

As a young woman she did a series of correspondences with a woman living in the Netherlands named Rosa Manuela Abendanon-Mandri. In those letters she wrote about her ambition to continue her education in the Netherlands, her desire to write a book along with her thoughts and ideas. When she passed away the Abendanons published her letters into a book called Door Duisternis tot Licht or in English, Out of Darkness Comes Light.

She may not have gotten the chance to follow her dreams and ambitions but her ideas resonated throughout history. She’s responsible for opening the window of opportunity for generations of Indonesian women after her.

So, Ladies…make her proud.

We owe her more than a lot.

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