Biography of Begum Rokeya

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, also known as Begum Rokeya (Begum is a feminine honorific and not an official part of Rokeya Hossain's name), was a Bengali Muslim feminist writer who wrote essays, novels, and short stories on the state of women's rights in British India and women's liberation. Born in 1880 into an upper-class family, Rokeya's father taught both her and her sister Arabic, Persian, English, and Bengali, although he encouraged the two young women to focus on studying Arabic and Persian. At age eighteen, Rokeya married Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hossain. Her husband encouraged Rokeya to continue writing and to pursue writing in Bengali as well as English. In 1905, while her husband was away, Rokeya wrote "Sultana's Dream," describing it as an exercise to pass the time and explore literary forms other than the essay. When her husband returned and read the story, he encouraged Rokeya to publish it, and in the same year the story appeared in The Indian Ladies' Magazine. In 1908, the story was republished as a book.

Rokeya went on to publish numerous other works, although she abandoned writing in English in order to write in Bengali and reach the audience that she intended to impart her political and sociocultural messages onto—Muslim Bengals. In 1911, Rokeya opened the Sakhawat Memorial Girls' School in Calcutta, and in 1916, she founded the Bengali Muslim Women's Association. She continued to hold conferences that focused on advocating for women's rights and reform. She aimed to revive principles of Islam that she believed had been lost, especially those concerning the lives of women. She ran the Sakhawat Memorial Girls' School for twenty-four years until shortly before her death.

Rokeya passed away in 1932 as a result of heart problems. Her invaluable contribution to the women's rights movement in Bangladesh, as well as her prolific writing career, have made her a central part of Muslim women's history and literature.

Study Guides on Works by Begum Rokeya

"Sultana's Dream," written in 1905 by Begum Rokeya (also known as Rokeya Sahkawat Hossain), is a science-fiction short story first published in The Indian Ladies' Magazine that depicts a society in which the practice of purdah is inverted, thus...