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Raden Ajeng Kartini lahir di Desa Mayong, Kabupaten Jepara, 21 April 1879 adalah putri ke 2 dari 5 bersaudara, pasangan Raden Mas Adipati Aryo Samingun Sosroningrat, Bupati Jepara (1880-1905) dengan ibu Mas Ajeng Ngasirah

Kartini hidup dikalangan bangsawan feodal ting gi, yang tidak sesuai dengan cita-citanya yg luhur dan demokratis.

Keluarga memberi ijin kepada Kartini masuk sekolah dasar Belanda ( EuropescheLagereSchool) di Jepara, sehingga beliau menjadi pandai berbahasa Belanda.

Dari sinilah kemudian Kartini berkenalan dengan teman-teman dan berkenalan pula dengan alam hidup barat. Betapa jauh perbedaan kedudukan wanita barat dengan wanita Jawa.

Dari situlah ia sadar wanita bangsawan harus membimbing kaumnya kearah kemajuan. Hasrat ingin melanjutkan sekolah ke Semarang atau Betawi terhalang oleh adat yang mengharuskan ia di “pingit” karena usianya telah 12 tahun. Dalam masa pingitan ini ia melanjutkan cita-citanya mendirikan sekolah untuk anak-anak para priyayi.

Pada masa inilah ia menulis surat untuk kenalannya di negeri Belanda tempat ia mencurahkan suka duka , hingga berakhir ketika ia dipinang Raden Adipati Aryo Djojohadiningrat Bupati Rembang 8 Nopember 1903. Di Rembang ia tetap melanjutkan cita-citanya mengajar bagi anak-anak priyayi di Rembang.

Lebih kurang 1 tahun setelah menikah, dan 5 hari sesudah melahirkan putra pertamanya, Kartini dipanggil pulang ke Hadirat Tuhan Yang Maha Esa 17 September 1904 dalam usia 25 tahun. Almarhum dimakamkan di makam keluarga di Desa Bulu sekitar 22 Km sebelah selatan Rembang.

Makam Kartini yang berjada di Desa Bulu dengan jarak tempuh sekitar 17,5 kilometer dari kota Rembang ke selatan jurusan Blora. Selain makam Kartini, di kompleks makam juga terdapat makam keluarga Bupati Rembang Djojo Adiningrat dan putra R.A Kartini satu-satunya RM Soesalit, serta keturunan keluarga bupati rembang tersebut.

Makam Kartini berada di tengah-tengah makam yang lainnya bersama istri pertama Djojo Adiningrat yang bernama Soekarmilah Djojo Adiningrat serta anak istri dari keduanya yang bernama Srioerip Djojo Adiningrat dan terdapat pagar khusus untuk ketiga makam tersebut. Alasan anak tersebut dimakamkan di lokasi tersebut karena orang tuanya sebagai keturunan keraton Solo ketika meninggal tidak boleh dimakamkan di luar keraton. Sebagai gantinya, yang dimakamkan adalah anaknya.
 

Sedangkan makam Djojo Adiningrat berada paling ujung dan berukuran paling besar dibandingkan makam yang lainnya. Sementara makam semata wayang R.A Kartini yang bernama Soesalit Djojo Adiningrat berada di luar pagar ketiga makam tersebut. Setiap bulan April puluhan ribu pengunjung berziarah ke Makam R.A Kartini yang dihiasai dengan marmer asli dari Italia.
Fasilitas yang tersedia di lokasi obyek ini, yakni area parkir yang luas, mushalla, bumi perkemahan, dan warung cinderamata.

Cita-cita R.A. Kartini yang amat luhur terungkap jelas setelah Mr. J.H. Abendanon bekas Direktur Departemen Pengajaran Hindia Belanda dalam tahun 1911 menerbitkan buku berjudul Door Duisternis tot Licht, lalu diterjemah kan oleh Balai Pustaka Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang. Buku itu berisi himpunan surat-surat Kartini kepada sahabat-sahabatnya di negeri Belanda, ditulis dari tahun 1900 – 1904 ketika ia dalam masa pingitan. Salah satu kalimat dalam buku tersebut berbunyi : “… Wij willen voor ons vole werken, het met helpen opvoeden, op heffen tot hooger zedelijk standpunt om zoo te komen tot beter, gelukkige maatschappelijke toestanden…” (… kami ingin bekerja untuk bangsa kami, membantu mendidik dan memajukan mereka hingga tarap budaya yang lebih tinggi untuk sampai kepada keadaan masyarakat yang lebih baik dan berbahagia…”

 

Kartini was born into an aristocratic Javanese family in a time when Java was still part of the Dutch colony, the Dutch East Indies. Kartini's father, Raden Mas Sosroningrat, became Regency Chief of Jepara, and her mother was Raden Mas' first wife, but not the most important one. At this time, polygamy was a common practice among the nobility.She also wrote the Letters of a Javanese Princess.

Kartini's father, R.M.A.A. Sosro-ningrat, was originally the district chief of Mayong. Her mother was M. A. Ngasirah, the daughter of Kyai Haji Madirono, a teacher of religion in Teluwakur, Jepara, and Nyai Haji Siti Aminah. At that time, colonial regulations specified that a Regency Chief must marry a member of the nobility and because M. A. Ngasirah was not of sufficiently high nobility, her father married a second time to Raden Ajeng Woerjan (Moerjam), a direct descendant of the Raja of Madura. After this second marriage, Kartini's father was elevated to Regency Chief of Jepara, replacing his second wife's own father, R. A. A. Tjitrowikromo.

Kartini was the fifth child and second eldest daughter in a family of eleven, including half siblings. She was born into a family with a strong intellectual tradition. Her grandfather, Pangeran Ario Tjondronegoro IV, became a Regency Chief at the age of 25 while Kartini's older brother Sosrokartono was an accomplished linguist.

Kartini's family allowed her to attend school until she was 12 years old. Here, among other subjects, she learnt to speak fluent Dutch, an unusual accomplishment for Javanese women at the time. After she turned 12 she was 'secluded' at home, a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage. During seclusion girls were not allowed to leave their parents' house until they were married, at which point authority over them was transferred to their husbands. Kartini's father was more lenient than some during his daughter's seclusion, giving her such privileges as embroidery lessons and occasional appearances in public for special events.

During her seclusion, Kartini continued to educate herself on her own. Because Kartini could speak Dutch, she acquired several Dutch pen friends. One of them, a girl by the name of Rosa Abendanon, became her very close friend. Books, newspapers and European magazines fed Kartini's interest in European feminist thinking, and fostered the desire to improve the conditions of indigenous women, who at that time had a very low social status.

Kartini's omnivorous reading included the Semarang newspaper De locomotief, edited by Pieter Brooshooft, as well as leestrommel, a set of magazines circulated by bookshops to subscribers. She also read cultural and scientific magazines as well as the Dutch women's magazine De Hollandsche Lelie, to which she began to send contributions which were published. From her letters, it was clear that Kartini read everything with a great deal of attention and thoughtfulness. The books she had read before she was 20 included Max Havelaar and Love Letters by Multatuli. She also read De Stille Kracht (The Hidden Force) by Louis Couperus, the works of Frederik van Eeden, Augusta de Witt, the Romantic-Feminist author Mrs. Goekoop de-Jong Van Beek and an anti-war novel by Berta von Suttner, Die Waffen Nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!). All were in Dutch.

Kartini's concerns were not just in the area of the emancipation of women, but also the problems of her society. Kartini saw that the struggle for women to obtain their freedom, autonomy and legal equality was just part of a wider movement.

After Kartini died, Mr J. H. Abendanon, the Minister for Culture, Religion and Industry in the East Indies, collected and published the letters that Kartini had sent to her friends in Europe. The book was titled Door Duisternis tot Licht (Out of Dark Comes Light) and was published in 1911. It went through five editions, with some additional letters included in the final edition, and was translated into English by Agnes L. Symmers and published under the title Letters of a Javanese Princess.

The publication of Kartini's letters, written by a native Javanese woman, attracted great interest in the Netherlands and Kartini's ideas began to change the way the Dutch viewed native women in Java. Her ideas also provided inspiration for prominent figures in the fight for Independence.

There are some grounds for doubting the veracity of Kartini's letters. There are allegations that Abendanon made up Kartini's letters. These suspicions arose because Kartini's book was published at a time when the Dutch Colonial Government were implementing 'Ethical Policies' in the Dutch East Indies, and Abendanon was one of the most prominent supporters of this policy. The current whereabouts of the vast majority of Kartini's letters is unknown. According to the late Sulastin Sutrisno, the Dutch Government has been unable to track down J. H. Abendanon's descendants.

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