December 9, 2022

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, often called Begum Rokeya (a “begum” is a Muslim woman of high rank) was a Bengali feminist thinker, writer, educator and political activist from British India — that is, present-day Bangladesh.

Here at HILOBROW, I’ve included Begum Rokeya’s story “Sultana’s Dream” — published in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine: A Monthly Journal Conducted in the Interests of the Women of India in 1905 — on my list of the 100 best science fiction tales from the genre’s c. 1900–1935 era, which is to say its Radium Age.

“Sultana’s Dream” depicts a peaceful, crime-free utopia in which women run everything and men are secluded — i.e., in a purdah-like system. What’s more, the women use advanced technology that makes possible laborless farming and flying cars; they have solved the problem of solar energy, and control the weather. (Most impressively, perhaps: The workday is two hours long.) I’ve included this story in an MIT Press sf collection I’ve edited; it appeared in March.

Hossain would go on to found the Muslim Women’s Association, which fought for women’s education and employment, and she established the first school aimed primarily at Muslim girls in Kolkata.

Bangladesh observes Rokeya Day in her honor every December 9th. HILOBROW is proud to join in this tradition. Here’s more info on Begum Rokeya.