Women in India

Plate from Emma Roberts, Hindostan. London: Fisher, Son & Co., 1846


Maria Graham, Journal of a Residence in India. Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1812.

Maria Graham (1785-1842) (in later life, Maria, Lady Callcott) was a travel writer, producing accounts of her travels to India, Italy, Chile, and Brazil. Graham went to India from England in 1808 with her father, a naval officer. It was there that she met and married her husband Thomas Graham, also a naval officer. Graham returned to England in 1811, publishing her first book Journal of a Residence in India.

The majority of women who traveled with their husbands to India were relegated to the domestic sphere. Their responsibility was to establish a suitable home environment that maintained the values of the English home. These Anglican women were seen as the guardians of the English race; preserving their purity was of the utmost importance to colonial men. Graham’s life and the work she produced is an exception to the ordinary experience of Englishwomen in India.

Sara Miller McCune Collection


Emma Roberts, Hindostan. London: Fisher, Son & Co., 1846.

Emma Roberts (1794–1840) was an English poet and travel writer. After the death of her mother left her with limited means, Roberts accompanied her married sister to Bengal where her brother- in-law was stationed. After her sister’s death, Roberts relocated to Calcutta and began writing for the Oriental Observer. She returned to England in 1832 when her own health began to fail, but came back to India in 1839. This time she took up residence in Bombay, traveling and writing for the Asiatic Journal. In 1840 she fell ill suddenly and died.

Roberts’ Hindostan is a vivid description of her travels through Northern India. Roberts was considered perhaps the most accomplished female traveler of the era, and while she was fascinated with India’s exotic landscape, she also described it as a place of death and decay. Her work was incredibly influential among British audiences and helped to characterize India as a place of great duality.

Sara Miller McCune Collection


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