Popular Western images of Indian women range from submissive brides behind their veils to the powerful, active women of Indian politics. In this lively and unique book, Patricia and Roger Jeffery present a different perspective on women’s lives. Focusing on the mundane rather than the exotic, they explore the complex interplay between the power of social structures to constrain individuals and the ways women negotiate these constraints to carve out places for themselves. Based on information collected by the authors during their research in villages in Bijnor District, western Uttar Pradesh, the volume offers eight life histories of Hindu and Muslim women. The women’s life histories present a variety of class positions and domestic circumstances, illustrating many aspects of north Indian village life. Interspersed with thematic discussion composed of dialogues, episodes, and songs, the life histories deal with topics of vital concern for women in rural north India: the birth of children, worries about dowry, arranging weddings, sexual politics in marriage, relationships with inlaws, relationships with natal kin, and widowhood.

Preface and Acknowledgments -- Introduction -- Queen Today in a Red Sārī! -- Just Because I Was Angry -- She’s Brought Plenty of Wealth -- A Girl Seems Burdensome to Both Her Parents -- Leaving Her Father’s House -- Who Would There Be to Sit with Our Boy? -- No One of Your Own Will Be There -- I’ve Become Shameless Because of the Children -- The Daughter-in-Law’s Era -- Love and Peace in My Mother’s House -- Should I Become a Pauper? -- Toasted on One Side -- Why Have You Married Me So Distantly? -- If My Uncle Saw the Situation I’m in Now -- A Woman Should Die Before Her Husband -- Allah Gives Both Boys and Girls -- Afterword -- Glossary