This book reconstructs the little-known history of political struggles that women launched in Asia and the Middle East from the 19th century onwards. Kumari Jayawardena gives detailed accounts of women’s movements in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.
She distinguishes between the growth of feminism, the movement for women’s emancipation, and women’s participation in the wider national and revolutionary struggles that took place. Many Third World women from all classes joined the struggles for national liberation. Some stressed emancipation, equal rights and legal reforms to end discrimination against women within the existing social structures. Other women raised more basic feminist issues concerning women’s subordination in the family and the structures of society generally. These women fought for the right to control their own lives in the home and outside, and to change those social institutions that contributed to their subordination. Kumari Jayawardena’s book challenges the view that feminism is a foreign ideology imposed on Third World countries. She also introduces into the mainstream of history those women who played a part in the national liberation and revolutionary movements of their countries.