Raden Ayu Kartini was born in Jepara, April 21, 1879. Sometimes known as Raden Ajeng Kartini, was a prominent Javanese and an Indonesian national heroine. Kartini was a pioneer in the area of women’s rights for Indonesians.
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.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 she turned 12 she was ‘secluded’ at home, a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage. During seclusion girls were not allowed to leave their parents’ house until they were married, at which point authority over them was transferred to their husbands. Kartini’s father was more lenient than some during his daughter’s seclusion, giving her such privileges as embroidery lessons and occasional appearances in public for special events.Kartini’s concerns were not only in the area of the emancipation of women, but also other problems of her society. Kartini saw that the struggle for women to obtain their freedom, autonomy and legal equality was just part of a wider movement.
Kartini’s parents arranged her marriage to Joyodiningrat, the Regency Chief of Rembang, who already had three wives. She was married on the 12 November 1903. This was against Kartini’s wishes, but she acquiesced to appease her ailing father. Her husband understood Kartini’s aims and allowed her to establish a school for women in the east porch of the Rembang Regency Office complex. Kartini’s only son was born on 13 September 1904. A few days later on 17 September 1904, Kartini died at the age of 25. She was buried in Bulu Village, Rembang.
Inspired by R.A. Kartini’s example, the Van Deventer family established the R.A. Kartini Foundation which built schools for women, ‘Kartini’s Schools’ in Semarang in 1912, followed by other women’s schools in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebn and other areas.
In 1964, President Sukarno declared R.A. Kartini’s birth date, 21 April, as ‘Kartini Day’ – an Indonesian national holiday. This decision has been criticised. It has been proposed that Kartini’s Day should be celebrated in conjunction with Indonesian Mothers Day, on 22 December so that the choice of R.A. Kartini as a national heroine would not overshadow other women who, unlike R.A. Kartini, took up arms to oppose the colonisers.
In contrast, those who recognise the significance of R.A. Kartini argue that not only was she a feminist who elevated the status of women in Indonesia, she was also a nationalist figure, with new ideas who struggled on behalf of her people, including her in the national strunggle for independence. (Ane Putri/3-A)