Letters Of A Javanese Princess

Paperback: 246 pages
Agnes L. Symmers (Translator)

The story of a young Indonesian woman, Raden Adjeng Kartini, the daughter of a Javanese civil servant, and her struggle to educate herself and break out of the strictures of Dutch colonial and Indonesian / Javanese cultural norms.

Kartini had been permitted the unusual priviledge of a Dutch education and learned to express herself in writing with a charming simplicity and insight. In her letters she writes of her impressions of her Dutch colonial masters and of her understanding of Javanese culture and religion. The book provides a great personal insight into the workings of the Dutch colonial period in Indonesia and of Indonesian culture generally.

In her letters, Kartini stresses that education is a precious good, also from a moral point of view, to which every person, women included, is entitled. Her book is a cry for justice for women among the cultural restrictions found in traditional Javanese society. Kartini is considered to be a torchbearer for progressive ideas and education by Indonesian nationalists and feminists. While acknowledging that the Javanese had a lot to learn from the enlightened side of western culture, she was critical of the crude, materialistic side of it, which predominated in colonial society. Kartini died at the age of 25, giving birth to her first child.

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