women, caste and reforms


NCERT CLASS 8 History notes

This topic is about women in India or more precisely status of women in India in nineteenth (19th) century. Today women’s in India have equal rights. This has become possible because of various educational reforms in India, social and religious reforms India. This improves the status of women India now men and women are equal.
But about 200 years ago in the nineteenth (19th) century India status of women in India was not same what we look today. Women discrimination was on the peak. Women activists, women social reforms, women reform movement played a great role in changing the position of women in Indian society.

Present topic women and reforms is from the class 8th NCERT History book Our Past 3 part -2. Chapter women, caste and reforms.

In this article we will cover only the women section –women in the 19th century, women reformer in the 19th century and impact of social reforms movement in India.

Women in nineteenth century –married at an early age, widows led miserable life(sati),rights to property were restricted, had no access to education. People in 19th century India believed that woman become widow if she was educated.
Women in 21th century –Women have to be adult before they are legally married, can marry any one from any caste, can do what they want, widows can remarry, equal rights and opportunity etc.

Caste division-Not only gender differences but people were also divides along the lines of caste.


  • Brahamans and Kshatriyas-Upper caste
  • Traders and moneylenders (Vaishyas)-Hold second position
  • Peasants and artisans (weavers,potters)-Shudras
  • Laboured,People doing cleaning work –Lowest position in society

Upper castes treat lowers groups badly and consider them untouchable ,seen as inferior human beings.

Society Towards Change


Development of new forms of communication such as books,magazines,newspapers,leaflets were printed. These are cheaper and accessible. Because of this exchange of Ideas between people linked to movements for social change. Influence of western culture etc are some of the most important reasons for the change in Indian society in the nineteenth century.

Reformers and reforms for women

raja ram mohan roy,wome,caste and reforms,class 8 ncert,ias history notes

  • Raja ram mohan Roy-Founded Brahmo  sabha later name changed to Brahmo Samaj in Calcutta.
  • Rajaram mohan roy spread the knowledge of western education and bring greater freedom and equality for women .
  • Raja ram mohan roy campaign against the practice of Sati.
  • Raja ram mohan roy tried to show through his writing that the practices of widow burning had no sanction in ancient text.
  • In 1829 sati was banned.

Most reformers when wished to challenge a practice that is harmful,they give reference to ancient sacred texts that supported their point of view.

For widow remarriage
Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar,ncert class 8,ias,social reformer india
Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

  • Used the ancient text to suggest that widow could remarry.
  • Britishers adopted his suggestions and law was passed in 1856 permitting widow remarriage.

Verrasalingam Pantulu-In Telgu speaking areas
Verrasalingam Pantulu,ncert,ias,ips
Verrasalingam Pantulu

He encouraged education for women, and started a school in Dowlaiswaram in 1874. He started a social organisation called Hitakarini Samajam (Benefactor).
Swami Dayanand saraswati,ias,ncert class 8
swami Dayanand saraswati

Swami Dayanand saraswati

 In North-founded Arya Samaj and also supported widow remarriage.

Remarried widows remained low and not easily accepted in society.

Education and women

Ishwarchandra vidyasagar and other reformer set up schools for girls.

Why girls were not allowed to go to school ?
  • People were afraid of school they think it prevents girls from doing domestic duties.
  • Girls have to travel through the public places in order to reach the school
  • Have corrupting influence on them
  • School will degrade Indian culture

Throughout the 19th century women were taught at home by liberal father or husbands.

women Reformers

Mumtaz Ali

  • Mumtaz Ali reinterpreted verses from the Koran to argue for womens education.
Begums of Bhopal
Begum Rokeya,ias,ncert class 8
Begum Rokeya
  • Begums of Bhopal-They played significant role in promoting education among women.Founded a primary school for girls.

Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain

  • Started schools for muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta
  • She was fearless critic of conservative ideas.

By 1800-Women began to enter universities

Tarabai Shinde
Tarabai Shinde,ncert,ias,reformers
Tarabai Shinde

  • A woman educated at home at poona. 
  • Published a book Stripurushtulna criticising the social differences between men and women.

Pandita Ramabai

Pandita Ramabai,ncert,ias
Pandita Ramabai

  • Great scholar of Sanskrit.she felt Hinduism was oppressive toward women.Wrote book about miserable of Hindu women.
  • Founded a widow’s home at poona .Here women were trained so that they themselves support economically.

By the end of 19th century women themselves working for reform,wrote books,edited magazines,founded school and training centre.
Formed Political pressure groups to raise their demands like female suffrage ,better health and education

From the 1920  –women joined various kind of nationalist and socialist movement
In 1929 Child marriage act was passed according to the act no men below the age of 18 and women below the age of 16 could marry.

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