-- from Sultana's Dream (1905), by Roquia Sakhawat Hussain
[This month, 13.7 Billion Years looked at female scientists throughout history who may be a bit overlooked today, in honor of Women's History Month. For the final post, a deviation from science to science fiction.]
Born in 1880 in Rangpur, Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh), Roquia Sakhawat Hussain was a writer, feminist and social worker who established the Sakhawat Memorial Girls' High School in Bhagalpur, the first school for Muslim girls, which continues today.
In 1905, her short story Sultana's Dream was published in The Indian Ladies' Magazine in Madras. Sultana's Dream is not only a Bengali sci-fi classic, but also one the earliest examples of feminist science fiction. The story depicts a feminist utopian society in which traditional male and female roles are reversed. The kingdom is ruled by a Queen who "liked science very much" and "circulated an order that all the women in her country should be educated."
Unlike traditional purdah, an Islamic custom that mandates women's bodies to be hidden from public view, men are the secluded sex while women run everything in a science-based, technologically advanced and crime-free society that has labor-free agriculture, flying cars, weather control and solar power. The word "sultana" is intended to be a female version of the traditional male ruler, the sultan.
Click here to read the full text of Sultana's Dream.
Click here to read a preview of the story in a book illustrated by Durga Bai, a contemporary female artist from the Gond tribe of central India, who drew her response to this century-old feminist fable.
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image: Book cover of Sultana's Dream, illustrated by Durga Bai