Selamat Hari Kartini
Today is Kartini Day (Hari Kartini) in Indonesia. It commemorates the birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879 – 1904), who is a symbol of women’s rights in Indonesia.
Her frank and moving letters, written in Dutch, were collected after her death in a book, Letters of a Javanese Princess (in English translation). Her life and the misfortune of her early death (at 25) were honored by the Kartini Foundation, which built schools for women (called Kartini schools) starting in Semarang in 1912.
I remember a reference to Kartini in one of the novels in Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s “Buru Quartet”; his protagonist, Minke, either meets a young woman who is based on the real Kartini, or else he learns about her from someone else in the story. I’ve forgotten the details. I remember feeling sad that she had received enough education to be both literate and bi-lingual, and yet her parents locked her away for a few years and then married her off to an older man who already had a wife or wives. Compared with Minke’s, her life was so much more restricted.