Internet Sleuthing – Mary Bhor


Mary Bhor (1865?-1913)

Daughter of Rao Saheb Ramji Gangaji Bhor and a second generation Christian, she took advantage of her English education and fairly liberal background provided by her parents. She had obtained a teacher’s training certificate from London and in her capacity as headmistress she had travelled widely in the Bombay presidency, In the 1890s, she held a highly paid appointment as the governess to the princesses of Baroda. She became the Lady Superintendent of the Poona Female High School around 1905. She wrote a travelogue in English called My Impressions of England (Poona, 1900) and a Marathi novel, Pushpakarandak [Basket of Flowers: A Homily] in 1890. The novel is relatively free from a commentary on the relative merits or demerits of Hinduism and Christianity, yet a juxtaposition of one- dimensional characters such as the ‘good and virtuous Shanta’ and the ‘bad prostitute Sundrabai’ places it firmly in the canon of nineteenth-century Marathi literature when the novel as a genre was still in its formative phase.The Emergence of Feminism in India, 1850-1920.

One example of this strategy in practice is Rukmini Sanzgiri, whose works on knitting and crocheting were publicized by Mary Bhor and Pandita Ramabai in the journals and adopted in their schools. The birth and development of the unique women’s press in Maharashtra as shown earlier in this chapter allowed women to develop passionate friendships and express unabashed admiration for the work done by their favourite female leaders. They reviewed each other”s books, wrote biographies of famous contemporary women in the belief that ‘a biography of a woman should be written by women’, housed each other in times of need, and thus developed interpersonal bonds comparable to those developed between British and American feminists during the early nineteenth-century feminist movements. In Maharashtra, women were often encouraged to find inspiration and courage by reading about the women’s movements taking place in far-flung countries, as remote sometimes as China and Mongolia, let alone Britain and America, or through the example of local women who had been heroic and faced society’s opprobrium. The Emergence of Feminism in India, 1850-1920.

Internet sleuthing which reveals obscure details about not so well known people can be a bit addictive and rewarding. And often th search is set off because I am intrigued by a costume. See for e.g. this post on the first women students of the University of Tehran.

Miss Marie Bhor – then studying at Somerville College – is listed as a Parsi who attended the International Council of Women meetings in 1899. Being 1899 Flora Annie Steele ended up speaking on behalf of Indian women even though Bhor had delivered a lecture at one of the sessions and was no doubt perfectly capable of speaking at the meeting.

Miss Bhor’s attire is of course Maharashtrian in origin and not Parsi.  This picture dates from 1905. A little bit more digging and a change in spelling and you can see that this is so in the excerpts posted today. Which also touches on her literary work and early feminism in Maharashtra and makes her more than a woman who wasn’t allowed to speak at a meeting on behalf of Indian women.

Pic from here.

About Anu M

A potted history of Indian clothing and fashion.
This entry was posted in 1900s, Christianity, Colonial, Costume, Early 20th Century, Feminism, Indian Costume, Indian Women, Maharashtra, regional styles, Sari, Sari Blouse, Victorian, vintage costume, vintage sari, women writers, Working Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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