Raj Matriarchs: Women Authors of Anglo-Indian Romance

Publication year

In the review of the whole collection published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies it is stated that

Reghina Dascăl’s ‘Raj Matriarchs: Women Authors of Anglo-Indian Romance’ [...] contrasts the novels of Maud Diver and Flora Annie Steel within the context of ‘Victorian imperial authority’ in ‘post-mutiny India’ (179). Drawing on contemporaneous anxieties of race, gender and class, the author examines the divergent ways in which Anglo-Indian romance fiction negotiates identity politics, Victorian and post-Victorian social mores and responses to colonization and colonialism. In its careful attention to both content and context, Dascăl’s chapter potentially comes closest to addressing the book’s proposed concerns regarding ‘the versatility of the literary genre of romance’ and ‘its potential for controversy’ (11).

In the foreword to the volume, it is explained that

Reghina Dascăl’s Raj Matriarchs. Women Authors of Anglo-Indian Romance examines the role of the so-called Anglo-Indian women writers in constructing a particular image of colonial India, partly romancing the Raj (it is not by chance that the genre of romance flourished at the turn of the 20th century, reaching its peak in the interwar years), hypostasising it as the perfect setting for exotic romance, and partly construing it as a brittle, hybrid, creolised Anglo-Indian reality. The author suggests that, for British feminists and suffragettes, India became a testing ground for female activism as they zealously embarked upon the salvation and emancipation of their sisters, throwing their weight behind campaigns against child marriage and suttee, and in favour of educational and professional inclusion. Like the benevolent, well-meaning and liberal fathers of the Empire, these imperial mothers and feminists–Josephine Butler, Christabel Pankhurst and Harriet Taylor Mill–in adopting their twin agenda of emancipation and deliverance , contributed substantially to the imposition of Western outlooks on the women of India. Writers of Anglo-Indian romance such as Maud Diver and Flora Annie Steel bring fresh perspectives to bear on the palimpsest reality of the British Raj. (xiii-xiv)