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Feminising Empire: The Association of Medical Women in India and the Campaign to Found a Women’s Medical Service

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Samiksha Sehrawat


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The ‘feminization’ of empire can be traced back to the rising prominence of female medical experts in India before the First World War. The activities of the Association of Medical Women in India (AMWI) represented a transition from the maternal imperialism of Victorian feminists to the ‘feminization’ of empire, which Barbara Bush argues took place in the inter-war years. British women doctors appropriated the right to speak for Indian women’s ‘medical needs’ during the AMWI’s campaign for the establishment of a government-run Women’s Medical Service in India. The AMWI argued that providing medical care for Indian women was an important imperial duty. Female medical experts were to be essential to this reconceptualization of colonial development. The rise to prominence of women doctors in colonial administration was possible only through the reconfiguring of the colonial gender order and racial hierarchies. This reordering sought to improve the status of British women doctors by asserting their professional superiority over Indian female sub-assistant surgeons, using racial difference to accentuate a professional hierarchy. Simultaneously, the AMWI sought to show that women doctors’ professional expertise entitled them to equality of status with male medical officers and colonial officers’ wives active in the Dufferin Fund.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sehrawat S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Scientist

Year: 2013

Volume: 41

Issue: 5/6

Pages: 65-81

Print publication date: 01/01/2013

ISSN (print): 0970-0293

Publisher: Social Scientist, Tulika