The goal of the Women’s Voices Project is to create an archive of women’s writings related to religious practice in South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora. The database will help Penn researchers better understand religious life in South Asia and in the diaspora.
Throughout my research experience, I learned both practical knowledge about how to do archival work, and fascinating information about women’s lives in South Asia in the eighteenth century. For example, during my first trip in the Kislak Center at Van Pelt, I was a nervous wreck with absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do. After asking hundreds of questions, I finally had my first box of documents set before me. However, I did not know the correct way to look through the materials, and unfortunately got a few documents out of order and spent the rest of the day feeling horrible for the mishap. Later in the summer, Dr. Robb (my research mentor) and I went on a research trip to Washington D.C., where we spent three days in the Library of Congress. There, we had a wonderful and successful trip, because Dr. Robb was there to walk me through the process of ordering documents and how to treat them correctly, and my previous expedition in the Kislak Center stopped me from making the same mistakes in the L.O.C. My research was focused on the Ducarel family and transliterating their correspondence from the late eighteenth to nineteenth centuries. I learned so much about their family, as well as the relationship between European settlers and their Indian wives and mistresses. It is a sordid history, and learning about their lives through such an intimate medium was thrilling.
Participating in this project has contributed to my educational experience immensely: I now know how to hold myself accountable for the work I need to do, and how to do so in a way that is suitable for academia. I have also gained a wonderful understanding of how women used literature and writing to overcome the oppressing societies they lived in.