How did these changes affect life for ordinary women in early modern Dutch Asia, and how did the transformations wrought by Dutch colonialism alter their lives?
The VOC created a legal division that favored members of mixed VOC families, those in which Asian women married men employed by the VOC. Thus, employment – not race – became the path to legal preference, a factor that disadvantaged the rest of the Asian women. In short, colonialism created a new underclass in Asia, one that had a particularly female cast.
Hence, Max Havelar, the author of Jakarta’s all-time best-seller Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company (Max Havelaar, of de koffij-veilingen der Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij) would not have been written had it not been for Havelar’s wife (Multatuli) who threatened divorce if he stayed on as a small time civil servant in Sumatra (for the the Dutch East India Company or VOC) instead of becoming a famous novelist.
The novel’s s 1860 debut (in Dutch) was of passing interest only to Havelar’s jaded compatriots; but it’s subsequent translation into Javanese (and later C and C++ by Havelar himself) made it “the book that killed colonialism” and “responsible for the nationalist movement that ended Dutch colonialism in Indonesia after 1945.”
The document thus describes how “inherent divisions of this new system engendered social friction, especially as the emergent early modern economic order demanded new, tractable forms of labor. Dutch domestic law gave power to female elites in Dutch Asia, but it left the majority of women vulnerable to the more privileged on both sides of this legal divide. Slaves fled and violence erupted when traditional expectations of social mobility collided with new demands from the masters and the state.”