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‘Indian Sisters! … Send your husbands, brothers, sons’: India, Women and the First World War

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Abstract

For the young, impressionable Maria Bibikova from Russia, the war was charged with Oriental romance. At the beginning of the war, she set off, sketchbook in hand, to draw the Indian troops who had just landed at Marseille and she was captivated by the Indian prince: ‘But I only had eyes for this prince … The diamonds in his ears, the flash of his eyes, his brilliant smile lent a sort of radiance to his face’ (Bibikoff 1915: 115). Maria’s remarkable book Our Indians in Marseilles (1915), shimmering between documentation and romance, captures much of the enthusiasm of the British press for the Indian troops. During the war years, Indian soldiers were endlessly paraded, photographed and painted, at once fanning and feeding into colonial fantasies of power and loyalty, a habit carried into official histories such as Sir James Willcocks’ With the Indians in France (1920). The response in India was largely enthusiastic: apart from some revolutionary activities abroad, the educated middle-classes and the political bourgeoisie, including the Indian National Congress, supported the war. Thus, in the prestigious Indian Review War Book published in Madras in 1917, we have a poem by an elite Indian exhorting, ‘Indian sisters! … Send your husbands, brothers, sons’ (Madhaviah in Natesan 1915: 261). Yet the actual soldiers, like their English counterparts, came to very different conclusions.

Keywords

  • Indian Woman
  • Feminist Politics
  • Nationalist Movement
  • Relief Fund
  • Hindu Woman

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© 2007 Santanu Das

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Das, S. (2007). ‘Indian Sisters! … Send your husbands, brothers, sons’: India, Women and the First World War. In: Fell, A.S., Sharp, I. (eds) The Women’s Movement in Wartime. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230210790_2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230210790_2

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

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