Google Doodle Celebrates Indonesia's First Female Journalist Roehana Koeddoes

Roehana Koeddoes is a female figure which has become a symbol of gender equality and freedom of expression in Indoesia.

Nusantara Pol - Today, November 8, 2021, Google Doodle displays an illustration of a woman's face wearing a Sumatran veil. The woman's name is Roehana Koeddoes, Indonesia's first female journalist. She is to become a beacon of gender equality and freedom of expression. 

Because of her extraordinary achievements, the Indonesian government declared Roehana Koeddoes, or Ruhana Kuddus in the new spellings, as a national hero on November 8, 2019, effectively cementing her legacy. 


roehana koeddoes google doodle
Google Doodle celebrates Roehana Koeddoes, Indonesia's first female journalist.

Roehana Koeddoes was born with the name Siti Roehana on December 20, 1884 in Koto Gadang, West Sumatra, during the colonial rule of the Dutch East Indies. 

Raised in a time when education was a rarity for Indonesian, especially for Indonesian women, Roehana found her passion for reading by consuming information in local newspapers. By the age of seven, Roehana regularly read newspapers and shares the news reported with her peers. 

In 1911, Roehana began to take part in the field of education by establishing the first school in Indonesia which was specifically aimed for women. Located in her hometown of Koto Gadang, the Roehana school empowers local women by teaching them many things, from reading Arabic literature to manners. 

Roehana also founded the first women's newspaper Soenting Melajoe (Sunting Melayu) in 1912. As the pioneer in Indonesia, this newspaper directly inspired the development of several other women's newspapers.

The Establishment of Soenting Melajoe

The reason Roehana founded Soenting Melajoe is inseparable from the widespread news of arbitrariness against women that was rampant at that time.

Roehana looked for ways to provide an outlet for women's voices. She tried to correspond with a number of newspaper leaders. One of them was Soetan Maharadja, editor-in-chief of the Utusan Melayu newspaper.

In her letter, Roehana expressed her desire to fight for the fate of women, thus making Soetan sympathized. The two then met and agreed to establish the first women's newspaper in West Sumatra, namely Soenting Melajoe which means "Malay Woman", in 1912. Roehana Koeddoes then later became editor-in-chief.

Her goal was to make Soenting Melajoe as an educational outlet which could improve the education level of Indonesian women, who at the time could not read Dutch. There were also few modern educational materials available in the Malay language, which was the predecessor of Indonesian language. The newspaper covered various social issues, including traditionalism, polygamy, divorce, and girls' education.

Apart from being involved in the publication of Soenting Melajoe, Roehana Koeddoes was also involved in the publication of several other newspapers. The newspapers included the Perempoean Bergerak in Medan with Siti Satiaman and Parada Harahap as well as Radio in Padang. 

Some of her writings were also published in several other newspapers, either in Sumatra or on the island of Java, including the Poeteri Indies newspaper. 

"From this disclosure, once again, it is not an exaggeration to say that Ruhana Kuddus is a pioneering figure in controlling women's newspapers and the first female journalist who had played a major role in the development of the Indonesian press," said Gusti Asnan, Historian from University of Andalas Padang, as quoted from Kompas (8/11/2021)

In 1908, Roehana married a movement activist who is also a notary and writer, Abdoel Koeddoes. Marriage didn't stop her from her journalistics activities. On the contrary, she became more involved with her husband movement avtities. 

Apart from working in journalism, Roehana is also known to be active in the field of education, especially women's empowerment. Together with her husband, Roehan was increasingly eager to educate, especially the women in Koto Gadang. 

She founded the Kerajinan Amal Setia school (KAS) on February 11, 1911. The school was intended for girls and would be educated with a number of lessons in the form of handicrafts, Arabic and Latin script and literacy, spiritual education and household skills. 

Roehana Koeddoes died at the age of 87 on August 17, 1972.