Sultana’s Dream: A Feminist Utopia and Selections from The Secluded Ones by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain

This Book hits different if you are a South Asian Woman.



Sultana’s Dream, first published in 1905 in a Madras English newspaper, is a witty feminist utopia—a tale of reverse purdah that posits a world in which men are confined indoors and women have taken over the public sphere, ending a war nonviolently and restoring health and beauty to the world.

“The Secluded Ones” is a selection of short sketches, first published in Bengali newspapers, illuminating the cruel and comic realities of life in purdah.


Sultana, the main protagonist dreams of a world with educated women that rule the country. This country is run with solar energy and covered with botanical gardens everywhere. Women walk the streets freely, travel with air cars and spend their days learning and researching science in their laboratories.
And all of this was written by the authoress – Rojeya Sakhawat Hossain, a Bengali Muslim Women, in the year 1905. A sci-fi “utopian” book that still seems so relevant.


Ladyland is in all sense quite an imaginative world for women even today. Quite a satirical take on what would happen if it wasn’t a patriarchal society and men were the ones in the purdah system.


Not that, now women don’t face inequality. Although when this was written, women were treated far more worse.
Women even today are discouraged to roam the streets freely without being judged. If at all an incident happens, it’s blamed on her. We still have women that follow such purdah system and live in patriarchal toxic societies that discourage them to be ambitious with their career choices. Men have a lot of control over how a woman should dress and behave.
But as a feminist , Ladyland wouldn’t be the solution in it’s literal sense. Even though, the book brings in a feminist approach and is thought provoking on a lot of levels that addresses issues like sexism.
However, I admire Rokeya for putting forward her thoughts by letting men imagine the taste of their own medicine. It’s almost like a parody and it’s really witty.


“But, dear Sultana, how unfair it is to shut in the harmless women and let loose the men.” “Why? It is not safe for us to come out of the zenana, as we are naturally weak.” “Yes, it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace.” “Of course not.” “Suppose some lunatics escape from the asylum and begin to do all sorts of mischief to men, horses, and other creatures: in that case what will your countrymen do?” “They will try to capture them and put them back into their asylum.” “Thank you! And you do not think it wise to keep sane people inside an asylum and let loose the insane?”



The second section of the book lets you witness the gravity of the situation and how important this story is. Her reports on how women themselves develop a sense of being holy hiding behind the purda system and being dependent even if it costs them their life or freedom is displayed quite precisely. This author earned my respect for her her storytelling and activism in educating women specifically Bengali Muslim Women.

We also have a biography and that is truly inspirational.


RATING : 5.0/5.0

Overall, this book was both enlightening and entertaining and is perfect for fans of Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It’s a feminist utopian sci-fi book but with a twist of the south Asian traditions weaved into the story.

If you like this

READ THIS: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. A remarkable tale of a family uprooted in Pakistan by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.


Genre : Science Fiction
No Of Pages : 104
Year Published : 1905