New Book: ‘Husband-Hunting in the Raj’

In this morning’s Sunday New York Times, there’s a profile of a new book. Anne de Courcy has written The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

In 1671, the East India Company sent 20 single women to Bombay, each supplied with an allowance of £300, a new set of clothing and a simple directive — to find a company-approved mate within a year…. By the 19th century, potential wives were paying a bond of £200 for the privilege of sailing off to a strange land to ally themselves with a virtual stranger…. [Wives] were constantly reminded that their place in the community depended on the status of their husbands.

“Man, what a bummer,” I thought when I first read that.

As a father, I’ve become increasingly aware of gender issues. I’ve written in the past about the lack of women entrepreneurs, and how personally meaningful it was for me to have a classmate, Sheryl Sandberg, come to Boston to speak.

But, we clearly have a long way to go. Women’s wages still lag men’s, and as I wrote a few days ago, disturbingly, many young girls in the United States have been coerced violently into sex work, a modern-day form of slavery.

So, we’ve made some progress, but we need a lot more. I don’t have “the answers” to this type of social inequality, other than I’m trying to be mindful of it and to spread the word. I’m trying to teach my children that a spouse does not “complete” you and magically make life better. Happiness starts from within.

Other people cannot make you happy. That’s fake Disney-movie-stuff.


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