Kartini, Raden Adjeng (1879-1904)


Door duisternis tot licht: gedachten over en voor het Javaansche volk [From darkness to light: thoughts about and on behalf of the Javanese people]/ compiled and edited by J.H. Abendanon, 4. druk. ('s-Gravenhage : Luctor et Emergo, 1923)

R.A. Kartini was a Javanese writer and early feminist. She is one of the official ‘heroes’ of the Indonesian Republic. and there is a national day in her honour: Kartini day. She was the daughter of a high-class Javanese and received some Western education before being secluded prior to her marriage. She promoted Western-style education for women and opened a school for daughters of Indonesian officials in 1903. She died in childbirth at the age of 25.

Her letters – written to Dutch friends – were published posthumously as Door duisternis tot licht (From darkness to light) and were later translated into English as Letters of a Javanese princess (1964). In these she asserts her views regarding women’s right to education and freedom from polygamy and child marriage. According to historian Jean Taylor (in Indonesia: peoples and histories (2003: 297)), some have argued that “she was an apologist for colonialism, and that her revolt against Javanese feudalism was meaningless elsewhere in the archipelago”.

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