This thesis examines British women’s political participation within the official community in India between 1858 and 1914. Using memsahibs’ personal writings, literature, and household guides, this thesis argues that British women’s social, domestic, and literary roles allowed them to enter into the political world of the Raj and add their views to discussions about British imperialism and the future of Britain’s presence in India. The stereotype of memsahibs as ignorant of India and Indian culture is false. They were active agents of the Empire. British women encountered politics on a daily basis in their conversations with Indian servants, their husbands, Indian officials, and British civil servants. Novelists such as Alice Perrin and Flora Annie Steel drew from their experiences in India and helped shape imperial literary discourses about the Raj, alongside Rudyard Kipling. As mistresses of the household, memsahibs had the political task of establishing and maintaining Englishness in the home through controlling their servants, selecting menus, managing household accounts, and raising future empire builders. Memsahibs followed their husbands to India, but they took their title of respect and made it into an identity. They found their own voices and means of political expression within the Raj.


Hayward, Jennifer

Second Advisor

Schilling, Hayden


English; History


Cultural History | European History | History of Gender | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Social History


memsahibs, india, the british empire, nineteenth century, twentieth century

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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