Philobiblon: A message of hope

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A message of hope

Today's arrival in the ebay "irresistable, under £5 with postage" range is Woman in World History, Her Place in the Great Religions, by E.M. White, a female author on whom Google does not help. (Herbert Jenkins, London)

Anyone know anything about her? (I admit a small extra interest because that was my mother's family name, not that I really think there's likely to be a connection.)

It is a product of its time, dreadully racist in places by today's standards, but boasting some pretty solid scholarship, and it is surprisingly evenhanded on the different religions, not even assuming that Christianity will be the one to go forward.

Following on from last night's post, it reports on the efforts of early 20th-century Muslim reformers, such as "Mr M. S. Mohidin, a magistrate of Madras, who wishes to break down the purdah". In 1911 he offered a prize of 1,000 rupees "to anyone who could prove from the Koran or the traditions of the prophet that the seculsion of women is authoried; he also brought the matter before the Universal Races Congress of 1911 and spoke of the miseries of the purdah system resulting in ignorance through want of education and lung disease through want of fresh air." (p. 158)

I was taken by the book's conclusion:
"The whole history reveals a great growth of the human spirit struggling against material obstacles and its own shortcomings. Through this growth woman has shared in the struggles and failures and successes ; her part has been distinct from yet parallel with man's. So it will prove in the future, for nothing can frustrate the evolutionary movement nor prevent humanity as a whole from attaining and achieving its purpose. What that purpose may be, and what the religion that will inspire towards it may be, is left to the present and succeeding generations to determine." (p. 395)

She seems curiously optimistic for an author writing in 1924, but perhaps it is a good message for those of us feeling depressed about the direction of the world now.

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