SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > VOL. IV - SELECTED LETTERS > SECTION TWO : EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS > Upliftment of Women
11. Upliftment of Women
Women are the very incarnation of service, but at present they minister only to their own families. Why should they not extend the field of their ministry so as to embrace the whole of India? A truly religious person becomes a citizen of the world, but the service of one's own country is stepping-stone to the service of human¬ity. And where service is rendered to the country con¬sistently with the welfare of the world, it finally leads to self-realization (moksha).
Selected Letters-I, p. 6, 13-12-1926

Many women are inactive. Who will make them industrious? Mothers spoil their children from birth. Who will prevent them? They load their children with ornaments and clothes of different kinds. They get their girls married quite young. They give them in marriage to old men. When I look at these ornaments on women I feel nothing but distress. Who will explain to them that real beauty lies in the heart and not in these ornaments? I might go on writing about such matters. But how can all this be set right? It can be done only when a Draupadi of dazzling lustre rises from among women.
Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 19, 28-2-1927

Man has kept woman in state of helplessness and dependence; so it continues to be his duty to protect her.
Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 27, 9-5.1927

So long as we retain even a subconscious attraction for fineries, it is useless to give them up or making changes by seeing what others are doing. But if our infatuation for fineries passes off, and still the mind is drawn towards them, then we would make the necessary outward changes whether through a sense of guilt or by way of limitation of others, and ultimately root out this craving. Infatuation and such like, are our enemies; they harass us so much that we should protect ourselves from them with whatever help which might be secured from any appropriate quarter. I am writing all this for those who are honest and sincere.
Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 59, 19-12-1927

Our women do not let male doctors to examine their bodies or to operate upon them. This is a false sense of modesty which has its root in sex-obsession. In this matter I prefer the practice of the West. I do know that at times undesirable consequences have resulted from it. When unscrupulous doctors and women who are easily duped or roused to passion come together, it has led to immoral acts. But that kind of thing happens in this world practically under any other set of circumstances, and there is no reason why on that account necessary and good activities should be put to a stop. We must have confidence in ourselves.
Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 88, 9-12-1929

It is the lust of men which has often degraded women and taught them ways of dressing and behaving, whereby women might tempt and excite them. The woman did not see this in the sense of her own enslavement and degradation. She also harboured lust, and so she bored her nose, bored her ears and put on shackles (in the form of ornaments) on her feet and became a slave. An unscrupulous man can easily tempt a woman with a nose-ring or earring. I have never been able to understand why women put on these things which lead to their disablement. Real beauty lies in the heart.
Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 88, 9-12-1929

Men must cease to be beasts if women of ill-fame are to be rehabilitated. So long as there are beasts in man's shape there must be beasts in woman's shape too. If such women give up their vile occupation and turn over a new leaf, respectable men would certainly marry them. Once a prostitute, always a prostitute—is not a sound proposition.
The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. 1, p. 315, 28-3-1932

A craving for things of beauty is perfectly natural. Only there is no absolute standard of beauty. I have therefore come to think that the craving is not to be satisfied, but that from the craving for things outside of us, we must learn to see beauty from within. And when we do that, a whole vista of beauty is open out to us and the love of appropriation vanishes.
The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. 1, p. 184, 21-6-1932

If a woman who is in danger of being molested has the right to commit suicide, so has a trustee who is being robbed of the property in his charge. But he himself should have thought out what is the right thing for him to do. If a woman prefers not to kill herself in order to save herself from rape, we have no right to say that she has done something wrong. On the other hand if a trustee gives up his life in the defence of trust property, we cannot assume that he did the right thing. It all depends upon the individual's state of mind at the time. Still I believe that a woman, if she has the requisite courage, will be ready to give up her life rather than her virtue. I therefore would certainly encourage such attitude in my talks with women, and make it clear that it is an easy thing to give up life if we will. For many women are under the wrong impression that they can do nothing but yield to the wrongdoer if there is no man to depend upon or if they do not learn to use dagger or a revolver. I would certainly tell them that they need not depend upon the weapon in defender's hand. Their virtue will be its own defence. But if such is not the case, they can resort to suicide instead of using a dagger and the like. There is no need for them to look upon themselves as weak (abala).
The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 210, 3-7-1932

You tell me how desolate B's house looked for want of the woman's touch. I have always considered this as a result of our false notions of division of work between men and women. Division there must be. But this utter helplessness on the man's part when it comes to keeping a household in good order and woman's helplessness when it comes to be a matter of looking after herself more here than in the West are due to erroneous upbringing. Why should man be so lazy as not to keep his house neat, if there is no women looking after it or why should a woman feel that she always needs a man protector? This anomaly seems to me to be due to the habit of regarding woman as fit primarily for housekeeping and of thinking that she must live so soft as to feel weak and be always in need of protection. We are trying to create a different atmosphere at the Ashram. It is difficult work. But it seems to be worth doing.
My Dear Child, p. 92, 18-7-1932

If you women would only realize your dignity and privilege, and make full use of it for mankind, you will make it much better than it is. But man has delighted in enslaving you and you have proved willing slaves till the slaves and the slave-holders have become one in the crime of degrading humanity. My special function from childhood, you might say, has been to make woman realize her dignity. I was once slave-holder myself but Ba proved an unwilling slave and thus opened my eyes to my mission. Her task was finished. Now I am in search of a woman who would realize her mission. Are you that woman, will you be one?
Letters to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, p. 100, 21-10-1936

I began work among women when I was not even thirty years old. There is not a woman in South Africa who does not know me. But my work was among the poorest. The intellectuals I could not draw. My appeals have always been from heart to heart. I have felt like fish out of water in the company of intellectuals. Hence you are wrong in laying down the sweeping proposition you have. You can't blame me for not having organized the intellectuals among women. I have not the gift. And then my method of organizing is out of the ordinary, not necessarily superior. All I mean is that I have nothing to show on paper. But just as I never fear coldness on the part of the poor when I approach them, I never fear it when I approach poor women. There is an invisible bond between them and me. And why do you miss the agony I am passing through? Is it not for womankind? I am wringing my soul for adequate purity to enable me to render greater service to them and through them to the whole humanity. Ahimsa, which is my sheet-anchor, demands all this.
Letters to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, p. 146, 8-7-1938

Whoever works according to her capacity has fulfilled her mission. But in your work you must cultivate that attitude of mind which is inculcated in the Gita. That is to do everything with a view to serve or as an offering to God, and if your action is an offering to God, you will never have the feeling "I am doing this." You will not then have ill-will for anybody and you will be generous to others. You should always ask yourselves whether your smallest action is guided by these principles.
Selected Letters-I, p. 16