Going Native
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Gandhi’s relationship with women has proved irresistibly fascinating to many, but it is surprising how little scholarly work has been undertaken on his attitudes to and relationships with women. Going Native details Gandhi’s relationship with Western women, including those who inspired him, worked with him, supported him in his political activities in South Africa, or helped shape his international image. Of particular note are those women who ‘went native’ to live with Gandhi as close friends and disciples, those who were drawn to him because of a shared interest in celibacy, those who came seeking a spiritual master, or came because of mental confusion. Some joined him because they were fixated on his person rather than because of an interest in his social programme. Through these fascinating women, we get a different insight into Gandhi, who encouraged them to come and then was often captivated, and at times exasperated, by them.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 février 2011
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9788174369925
Langue English

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Thomas Weber is a Reader in the Politics and International Relations programme at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. He has been researching and writing on Gandhi’s life, thought and legacy for almost thirty years. His Gandhi related publications include: The Shanti Sena: Philosophy, History and Action ; Gandhi, Gandhism and the Gandhians ; Gandhi as Disciple and Mentor ; On the Salt March: The Historiography of Gandhi’s March to Dandi ; Conflict Resolution and Gandhian Ethics ; and Hugging the Trees: The Story of the Chipko Movement .

Gandhi, Gandhism and the Gandhians

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Have Pen, Will Travel: Observations of a Globetrotter
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Lotus Collection
© Thomas Weber, 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher.
First published in India in 2011 The Lotus Collection An imprint of Roli Books Pvt. Ltd. M-75, Greater Kailash II Market, New Delhi 110 048 Phones: ++91 (011) 4068 2000 Fax: ++91 (011) 2921 7185 E-mail: info@rolibooks.com Website: www.rolibooks.com Also at Bangalore, Chennai, Jaipur Mumbai & Varanasi
Cover Design: Bonita Vaz-Shimray Production: Shaji Sahadevan
ISBN: 978-81-7436-820-1



I. Introduction: Gandhi, the Feminine and the West
Gandhi on Women
Gandhi as Woman
Gandhi and Women
Gandhi and Western Women

II. Western Women Contacts: Friends, Supporters and Critics
The First South African Women Friends
Women Supporters in South Africa: Emily Hobhouse and Olive Schreiner
Sonja Schlesin: Secretary/Co-worker/Critic
Annie Besant: Gandhi’s Last Rival
Muriel Lester and Agatha Harrison: Hosting Gandhi/Interpreting Gandhi
Maude Royden: Gandhi and Peace Armies
Ellen Hørup: Gandhi as Beacon
Conclusion: Agreements and Disagreements

III. Western Women Interpreters: Constructing an Image
Interviewers and Gandhi’s Image in the West
Katherine Mayo: The Drain Inspector
Patricia Kendall: Out-Mayoing Mayo
Margaret Sanger: Examining Gandhi’s Love and Lust
Margaret Bourke-White: The Icon Maker
Conclusion: The Constructed Image

IV. Western Women Disciples: Going Native
Introducing the ‘Natives’
Too Equal to be a Disciple: Millie Graham Polak
Millie Comes to South Africa
Millie the Challenging ‘Sister’
The First Disciples: The Danes Esther Færing and Anne Marie Petersen
Esther Færing: My Dear Child
Anne Marie Petersen: Missionary and Nationalist
The ‘Native’ Danes and Gandhi
The Ultimate Disciple: Mirabehn
Madeleine Slade Comes to Gandhi
Mirabehn and Gandhi
The Growing Distance
The Final Years with Gandhi
The Difficult Disciples: Nilla Cram Cook and Margarete Spiegel
A Bohemian Background
Nila Nagini: Mother, Spiritual Wife and Gopi
Margarete Spiegel: The Prospective Daughter-in-Law
Gandhi, Mary Magdalene and Amala
The Ideal Disciples: Mary Barr and the Khedi Workers
Mary Barr Renounces Gandhi’s Person for his Work
Mary Chesley Comes to Khedi
Other Khedi Workers: Pearl Madden and Margaret Jones
The Khedi Workers as Workers
Other European Disciples: Antoinette Mirbel, Francisca Standenath and Helene Haussding
Antoinette Mirbel, Francisca Standenath and Brahmacharya
Helene Haussding: ‘My Dear Sparrow’
Disciples after Gandhi: Marjorie Sykes and Catherine Mary Heilemann
Marjorie Sykes and Nai Talim
Saralabehn and Work in the Mountains

V. Conclusion: Gandhi and Western Women
Why These Western Women Came to Gandhi
Why Gandhi Encouraged Them
A Final Word on Gandhi and His Relationship with Western Women



T his project started with an inspiration at the Gedong Gandhi Ashram at Candidasa in Bali. Although the Gandhian founder, Ibu Gedong Bagoes Oka, was no longer alive, the institution still preserved the spirit of her strong Gandhian presence. One day, in the ashram library, I came across Mary Barr’s collection of the letters that the Mahatma had written to her. From that little book I realised not only Barr’s closeness to Gandhi, but also that she had vanished from the Gandhi story as it is most often told. I quickly made a list of the other Western women who should also have been remembered as part of that story, and about whom I should have known much more than I did. To the Gandhi Ashram, and the ashramites, especially I Nyoman Sardra and Agustina Asti who made my stay so enjoyable and productive, my sincere thanks.
I would also like to thank George Paxton and Charles DiSalvo for sharing their insights into the life of Sonja Schlesin; Hoger Terp and Tine Elisabeth Larsen who helped me with the Danish disciples; Sharon MacDonald who gave me more of the background to the life of Mary Chesley; David Hopkins, for assistance with the section on Saralabehn; and Margit Frank and Laurie Cohen for sharing information and the letters exchanged between the Standenaths and Gandhi that were in archives in Vienna and had not made it into the Indian collections or into Gandhi’s Collected Works . At the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, where I read most of the letters to Gandhi from the women who form the core of this book, I would like to thank Amrutbhai Modhi for looking after me; and the office and library staff, in particular Kinnari Bhatt who almost became my personal research assistant; and Tridip Suhrud who had ensured that the material I needed was waiting for me when I arrived. In Mumbai, as usual, T.K.R. Somaiya of the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal was my considerate host, and the staff and librarians at the nearby Mani Bhavan are owed thanks, in particular Dr Usha Thakker who discussed Gandhi’s relationship with women at length with me. Dr Y.P.Anand and Dr Varsha Das at the National Gandhi Museum Library in Delhi, and the librarians at La Trobe University’s Borchart Library helped me with some obscure sources; and at Vedchhi I had the good fortune of spending some time in discussion with Narayan Desai, clarifying some of the larger themes in the book. My able translators were Marja Koskela (from German), Swati Desai (from Gujarati) and Sandhya Mehta and Avni Lavasa (from Hindi). I could not have completed this work without them. Finally, to those who read and commented so constructively on earlier drafts of chapters or the whole manuscript, especially Maureen Bond, Charles DiSalvo, Ruth Fluhr, Leela Gandhi, Meg Gurry, Delene Hutchins, Marja Koskela and Sharon MacDonald – my gratitude to you all.


Gandhi, the Feminine and the West

G andhi’s relationship with women has proved irresistibly fascinating to many. Very often people who know practically nothing about the Mahatma will make a comment on his ‘sleeping’ with young women in his old age. Much of this comes from prurient interest fostered by sensationalist biographies or books aimed at debunking the ‘myth of the Mahatma.’ 1 Gandhi often talked about women as the stronger sex (and this has been seen as a form of patronisation by, especially feminist, critics) and how he wanted to be like a mother to his followers. Not surprisingly, the collections of his letters and speeches ‘on women’ are many. What is surprising is how little scholarly work has been undertaken on his attitudes to, and relationships with, women.
In 1953, Eleanor Morton published a book titled The Women in Gandhi’s Life ( Women Behind Mahatma Gandhi in the British edition of the following year). The book provides a chronicle of Gandhi’s life using his significant female relationships as the vehicle. The women are, naturally, firstly his mother Putlibai and wife Kasturba; followed by some Western friends and influencers including Annie Besant, Olive Schreiner, Millie Graham Polak and Sonja Schlesin; then noteworthy Indian women such as Anasuya Sarabhai, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Sarojini Naidu, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, and Sushila Nayar; and other prominent Westerner

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