Raden Ayu Kartini lived a long time ago—she was born on this day in 1879—and she had no political power—not all that much control, even, over her own life—and she died when she was just 25 years old. But she made an impact on her society and, 60 years after her death, a national holiday was created in honor of her.
Kartini is known as a pioneer in women's rights for native Indonesians.
At the time that Kartini lived in Java (part of Indonesia), it was part of the Dutch colony the Dutch East Indies. Her parents were aristocratic and thought education was very important. That's why they allowed their daughter to attend school all the way until she was 12 years old!
She learned fluent Dutch, which was unusual for a Javanese woman of her time.
As was typical of Javanese nobility, at age 12 Kartini went into “seclusion,” which meant that she had to stay in her parents' home until she was married. Kartini's father allowed her to take embroidery lessons in the home and even allowed her to appear in public a few times—for special occasions.
Kartini could read, though, and she could even read Dutch—so her “seclusion” (which would seem like imprisonment to most modern teenage girls!) didn't stop her education. She read, read, read, and she wrote to Dutch pen pals, and she learned about life for women in other places. Kartini began to care about freedoms for women, but she also cared about the problems of her society and saw women's rights as part of a wider movement.
Against her wishes, Kartini was married at age 24 to a man who already had three wives (polygamy was legal and customary then). Kartini's husband allowed her to establish a school for women. However, Kartini died less than a year after her marriage, due to complications of childbirth.
Inspired by Kartini's example, a Dutch family set up the Kartini Foundation, which built schools for women. Kartini schools were built in many areas of Java.
In 1964, President Sukarno delcared Kartini's birthdate as Kartini Day.
Learn about Indonesia.
This Southeast Asian country is made up of 17,508 islands, including these five largest: Java, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea, and Sulawesi. With more than 238 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country.
You might be surprised to learn that Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country! More than Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia—more than any of the Middle Eastern and Northern African countries most people associate with Islam!
- Check out this YouTube video about some youths exploring this varied nation.
- Here are some cool photos of Indonesia; click to enlarge.
- The largest living lizard lives on several islands of Indonesia. Check out some facts about the ten-foot-long lizard here and here.