“Revolutionary Emancipation”: The Struggle for “All Women’s Rights” in Post-Independence Indonesia

Paula Hendrikx

PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne

This paper examines how the progressive Indonesian Women’s Movement envisioned and advocated for a socialist feminist future in post-independence Indonesia using the language of ‘women’s rights’. First I will explore the movement’s own understanding of its position in the history of international women’s activism, based on internal documentation used for membership training courses. Then I will analyse how this imagination of the past related to their envisioning of the future. Demanding the ‘defence of all women’s rights’, their activist agenda encompassed a wide range of ‘women’s rights’ including demands that concerned peasants and agricultural workers specifically. As the only women’s organisation in Indonesia at the time ‘that could make a claim to represent poor women workers’ (Blackburn 2004), as well as poor peasant women, internal documentation of its visions of the past and future deserve reconsideration. Their wider definition of the struggle for women’s rights points to a socialist feminist agenda as expressed in the notion of ‘revolutionary emancipation’. By examining this notion, I aim to re-examine how women activists negotiated their visions of ‘feminist’ and socialist agendas, as related to their exceptional organisational efforts among peasant women in particular.


Paula Hendrikx is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Melbourne. Her dissertation project examines women peasant activism in post-independence Indonesia, with a focus on the Guided Democracy period. Her research interests furthermore include oral history, public history and decolonisation, and memory studies.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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