Coolie Women

Honouring women of Indian indentured heritage throughout history, past and present.

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Updated October 4, 2020



Rajkumari Singh / Alice Bhagwandai Singh

Pita Pyaree

Indian women in Guadeloupe

Clara Ramdeholl

Gladys Ramsarran

Postcard Image of Indian Women

Ramlali Awadhbihari

Moti Marhé interviews the longest living British-Indian indentured labourer of Suriname, Mrs. Ramlali Awadhbihari (104 years old), in or about 1982. The producer Abdoelrahman Ramjan made the filmdocumentary 'Aji Ramlali', on her life in which we followed her during the last five years before her death. The interviews are in the only language she could speak: her Sarnami-Hindustani.


Asian Labourers in Trinidad

Aunty Chalma

Elandi Yeagan

“Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery” tells the astonishing and controversial story of the systematic recruitment and migration of over a million Indians to all corners of the Empire. It is a chapter in colonial history that implicates figures at the very highest level of the British establishment and has defined the demographic shape of the modern world.

Women Carrying Metal Jugs in Guyana

Tetary Begum Janey


“An Indian woman (who)… belonged to Lucknow, … met a man who told her that she would be able to get twenty-five rupees a month in a European family, by taking care of the baby of a lady who lived about 6 hours’ sea-journey from Calcutta; she went on board and, instead of taking her to the place proposed she was brought to Natal” (Indian Immigrants Commission Report, Natal, 1887, cited in Carter and Torabully, 2002, p. 20).
Indentured labour from South Asia (1834-1917)

“"Do not speak to the Indians," said the British to the Africans. "They are vile and carry diseases."

"Do not speak to the Africans," said the British to the Indians. "They are vile and carry diseases."

It was a strategy to prevent the union of the groups. Together they would be strong enough to rebel against their oppressors.”
— Elizabeth Jaikaran, Excerpt from “The Indo-Caribbean Experience: Now and Then”

“”Dougla” is a slur meaning “bastard” or “mutt.” It has its origins in Bhojpuri, the dialect of Hindi spoken by the majority of Indians who migrated as indentured laborers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In North India, the word was used to describe someone with parents of different castes. It had the strong connotation of pollution, since orthodox Hinduism saw relationships across caste as illegitimate. In the Caribbean, the word was applied to the children of black and Indian parents. Its sting was no less in this transplanted setting.”
— Gaiutra Bahadur, Excerpt from “"Dougla" Politics”

More on Dougla heritage: