in 1905, the wife of a magistrate in rural India published a short story in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine called “Sultana’s Dream.” in this science-fiction fantasy, which describes a utopia named Ladyland, the sun’s energy has been harnessed for cooking. scientists have discovered how to control moisture in the atmosphere, eliminating rain but capturing plenty of water for farming and bathing. all travel is done by air. crime has been eliminated. the architects of this world—its safety as well as its solar power—are all women.
what was most radical about the future imagined by the Bengali feminist Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was that the women who inhabited it had been liberated from purdah, the practice that for centuries had kept them in enforced seclusion, behind the veil or at home, hidden from the gazes of strange men. assuming public roles in politics, the academy and the sciences, the women of Ladyland walk the streets freely and keep their men confined indoors, where they do the cooking and tend to the children. the narrator is Sultana, who visits Ladyland in a dream. astonished to find the streets empty of men, as well as to learn that they are “in their proper places, where they ought to be,” she struggles to understand how this reversal was accomplished, and why. wasn’t the zenana, the separate sphere set aside for many women in India, for their own good? — india’s missing women, gaiutra bahadur (link above to the short story)