On This Day: 7 November 1671

On this day in 1671, the council of the East India Company in Surat met. One of the issues they felt compelled to discuss was the problem they were having with women. Needless to say, the council comprised only men.

They wrote to the Company in London: Wee are often troubled with women who when their husbands dye are importunate to return for England in your shipping, & once allso are earnest to come to Surratt. The members of the council wanted widows and their family to remain in Bombay, the new settlement the East India Company were building. Eventually Bombay was to replace Surat as the main factory on the west coast of India.

They show no sympathy for women left with no means of support in what must still have been very primitive conditions. Only a few years before, Bombay had been an uninhabited island. They were more concerned with their plans: As to the permitting women to returne to England … wee think it not consistent with the good of your Island that any women especially those of ordinary quality be suffered to leave at their pleasure. They were attempting to emulate the success of New England in America.

As there was little alternative to a Company ship for anyone wanting to return to England, the women were at the mercy of the Company. Consequentially, most stayed marrying a succession of men until they, in turn, died.


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