IMG-20160421-WA0050We feel that the kernel of all religion is good and beautiful. But, O ye peoples, what have you made of it?” Instead of drawing us together, religion has often forced us apart and even this young girl realized that it should be a unifying force. The girl who wrote these let­ters happened to have a father who, as she says, was liberal and had a tremendous understanding of the longings of the hearts of the young Javanese. He allowed his daugh­ters to go to a foreign school until they were twelve and then they had to return to the cloistered home life, but among themselves there was a freedom of communication and a closeness, which did not exist in many of the Javanese families of the day.” Kartini said. Raden Adjeng Kartini, sometimes known as Raden Ayu Kartini, was born on 21 April 1879. She was a prominent Indonesian national heroine from Java, also a pioneer in the area of education for girls and women’s rights for Indonesians.

Nia S. Amira
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Born into an aristocratic Java­nese family in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, Kartini was the fifth child and second eldest daughter in a family of eleven, including half siblings. She was born into a family with a strong intellectual tradition. Her father, Sos­roningrat became Regency Chief of Jepara after his second marriage to Woerjan, a di­rect descendant of King of Madura considering that Kartini’s mother, Ngasirah was not of sufficient nobility and even as the first wife but not the most important one.

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Kartini’s family al­lowed her to attend school until she was 12 years old. Here, among other sub­jects, she learnt to speak Dutch, an unusual accomplish­ment for Javanese women at the time. Af­ter that, she was secluded at home, a common prac­tice among J a v a n e s e n o b i l i t y, t o p r e ­pare young girls for their mar­riage. She aspired to fur­ther education but the option was unavail­able to her and other girls in Javanese soci­ety. Kartini’s father was more lenient, giving her and her sisters such privileges as embroidery lessons and occasional appear­ances in public for special events. During her seclusion, Kartini continued to educate herself on her own. She could speak Dutch and she acquired several Dutch pen friends. One of them was Rosa Aben­danon, who later became her close friend.

Kartini’s reading included the Semarang newspaper De Locomo­tief, edited by Pieter Brooshooft, as well as leestrommel, a set of maga­zines circulated by bookshops to subscribers. She also read cultural and scientific maga­zines as well as the Dutch w o m e n ’ s m a g a z i n e De Holland­sche Lelie, to which she be­gan to send contributions which were pub­lished. Before she was 20 she had read Max Havelaar and Love Letters by Multatuli. She also read De Stille Kracht by Louis Coupe­rus, the works of Frederik van Eeden, Augusta de Witt, the Romantic-Feminist author Goekoop de-Jong Van Eek and an anti-war novel by Berta von Suttner, Die Waffen Nieder!. All were in Dutch. Books, newspapers and Eu­ropean magazines fed Kartini’s in­terest in European feminist thinking even nationalist.

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Even in her very short life, Kar­tini had tried her important role for the legacy that may support the rights of Indonesian women particulary, and as national iden­tity generally. A mother of a unique child whom she never met after she delivered her baby and died on 17 September 1904, provides an inspiration to continuing effort to overcome of the challenges faced by the Indonesian women.

It was once in the Javanese feu­dal’s family had happened when their family member could argue with the old system that had run for centuries and Kartini the one who made this happen through her let­ters. In 1964, President Sukarno de­clared Kartini’s birth date, 21 April, as ‘Kartini Day’ – an Indonesian na­tional holiday.

In the present-day Indonesia, Hari Ibu Kartini or Kartini Day is more seen as an annual event in school calendar, often providing the setting in which students can explore Indonesian history, the role of wom­en in the society, in the families, the rich cultural diversity of Indonesia and busy day for mother who must take care of their beloved dressing up in traditional outfits celebrating Kartini Day at school by doing fash­ion show or marching around the school’s area showing their enthusi­asm to the people that they always remember what Ibu Kartini had tried to do for the goodsake of Indonesian women’s future.