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Hamilton Alumni Review
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Women in India’s industrial revolution


Lisa Trivedi, associate professor of history, is back on College Hill after spending a year combing through archives in India for clues to better understand how gender ideologies in Britain and India worked in tandem to shape women’s experiences as industrial workers across two distinct cultures and within one empire.

Her project, “Bound by Cloth: Women Textile Workers in Bombay and Lancashire, 1860-1940,” examines the development of factory reform movements and its particular effects upon women’s lives. Despite the increasing need for industrial workers in Bombay, whose mills grew in number from 17 in 1869 to 259 by 1913, the Factory Act of 1891 significantly limited the conditions of employment for women. Trivedi examined what these limitations may tell about the predispositions of industrial capitalism cross-culturally.

Her project also took into account a broader perspective. Europe is frequently credited with developing some of the basic aspects of modern industrialized life and passing them on to other societies. Trivedi argues that closer examination of work and leisure, family and community, and scarcity and consumption allows us to consider the common experiences of women.

Assisted by fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the Fulbright Foundation, she spent nine months conducting research in the Maharastra State Archives at Bombay University’s Elphinstone College. These archives contain the papers of the Bombay government during the British colonial period, including materials on health, public works, education, industry and labor.

Trivedi, who came to Hamilton in 1999, also secured seed funding to begin preserving the newspaper of one of India’s most important labor organizations, the Textile Labour Association in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

“Now that I have contacts in historical preservation in India, I hope to write a grant that will preserve the rest of the Textile Labour Association’s library and perhaps provide research facilities for others,” she said. “Carrying out this work is a small way that I can give back to the country where I do my research.”

Cupola