Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner
Two wives of British colonial agents in India compiled their experiences in this practical guide for new “memsahibs” (Indian term of respect for married, upper-class white women) in British-controlled India. Flora Annie Steel (1847–1929) and Grace Gardiner share advice that is often humorous or outrageous as well as sophisticated. The work, called the “Mrs. Beeton of British India” (Document 18.4), attempts to maintain “British standards” in a country of unfamiliar food products, extreme heat, and different cultural expectations. This selection guides a wife through what may seem like shocking changes—occasionally revealing a rather haughty tinge of colonialist superiority.
From Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner, Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 6, 11–5, 55–62.
Before Caroline Norton wrote the activist letters in Document 18.1 with the aim of improving the legal status of women in Britain, she wrote a detailed account of her own losses in her English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century. She tells her side of the mental and physical abuses she endured during her life with Mr. George Norton, a lawyer she married at the age of nineteen in 1827. Consider how revelations from her private experience may have affected a Victorian audience as well as fueling Norton’s political quests.
From C. Norton, English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, Inc., 1981, pp. 22–, 31–3, 49–50, 54–7, 147–8, 150, 154, 158–9, 175.
Remembered chiefly as an education reformer, Maria Montessori (1870–1952) was also a social activist who brought the plight of Italy’s urban poor to light. In this excerpt from the third chapter of her book The Montessori Method, she reprints an address she made at the formal opening (1907) of the first of her “Children’s Houses” – this one in Rome, in the then-famous slum in the San Lorenzo district.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman