She was born Siti Ruhana on December 20, 1884, in the village of Koto Gadang (Nagari) in Agam Regency, inland region of Sumatra, West Indies, Netherlands. Her father, Mohammad Rasjad Maharaja Soetan, was Jambi Residency and later Medan’s chief prosecutor. Roehana Koeddoes was the half-sister of Sutan Sjahrir and cousin of Agus Salim, an important intellectual and politician of the Indonesian independence movement. She was also the aunt (mak tuo) of the Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar. Luhana had no formal education, but she was an intelligent person. She often studied with her father, who taught her reading and language studies. When her father was assigned to Alahan Panjang in western Sumatra, she asked her neighbors (including the wife of another prosecutor) to teach her to read and write in Zuwei and Latin, and to teach her household crafts such as lace making. After her mother’s death in 1897, she returned to Koto Gadang, where she learned crafts and became increasingly interested in teaching girls how to read the Quran while still young.
In 1908, at the age of 24, Roehana Koeddoes married her notary, Abdo El Coedos, and she became known as Loehana Coedos. Abdoel Koeddoes supported his wife’s efforts to educate women.
Ruhana’s early commitment to a more structured form of education was when she founded the Artisan School in Koto Gadang in 1905.
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In February 1911, Roehana Koeddoes decided to establish a more organized women’s education association named Kerajinan Amai Setia. The school has established a school which aims to teach crafts and skills, especially to girls, beyond the daily household chores, and to read and manage Zuzu language and Latin writing. home. During this period, she faced opposition from numerous sources resisting change and progress in women. With her husband’s support, Luhana persistently persuaded people to eventually recruit around 60 students.
The school was officially recognized by the government in 1915 and became a hub for artisans to collaborate with the Dutch government in the sale of their works in major cities and abroad. It was the only craft producer to meet international purchasing standards.
While she became a journalist, she continued to work in her education field. In 1916 she was appointed as a teacher at an Indonesian school in Payakhumbu, West Sumatra.
With her fluent writing skills, Koeddoes didn’t stop at teaching women’s crafts. She believed in women’s education as a whole. The following year, she wrote a letter to Soetan Maharadja, editor-in-chief of Oetoesan Melajoe (EYD: Utusan Melayu), proposing to launch a women-oriented newspaper.
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Maharadja had already heard of Ruhana’s educational activities, so on July 10, 1912, the first issue of Soenting Melajoe (EYD: Sunting Melayu), a Malay newspaper with a female audience, was published. The name of the newspaper refers to Sunting, a traditional hair ornament worn by women, but it is also an inference from another word meaning to edit or correct. Ruhana became editor-in-chief with the help of Soetan Maharadja’s daughter Zoebaidah Ratna Djoewita. She said the newspaper aims to improve the education level of Indonesian women. Especially because there are few women who can read Dutch and there are relatively few modern educational materials in Malay (Indonesian). The newspaper covered the social issues of the time, such as traditionalism, polygamy, divorce, and the education of girls. Most of the contributors were wives of government officials or nobles. Eventually, the continued publication of newspapers inspired the creation of more educational societies, such as those created by Ruhana in 1911.
In 1913 she went to Holland with the Westenenk family for a time to improve her education. After she returned to India, she continued editing Soenting Melajoe.
At the beginning of 1921, Ruhana left Soenting Melajoe for unknown reasons, and Soetan Maharadja appointed her daughter Retna Tenoen as her new editor. However, Soenting Melajoe did not last long after that, and it appears that Soetan Maharadja’s other paper, along with Oetoesan Melajoe, printed the last issue in January 1921.
Roehana Koeddoes died in Jakarta on August 17, 1972, the 27th year of Indonesia’s independence day. She is buried at the Karet Bivak Cemetery.
In 1974, the provincial government of West Sumatra made her her first female journalist (Wartawati Pertama). She also won the 1987 Indonesian Perss Pioneer (Perintis Pers Indonesia) and 2007 Star on Service, 1st prize (Bintang Jasa Utama).
The Indonesian government has declared Roehana Koeddoes the national hero of Indonesia from 7 November 2019. 120/TK/2019 and the next day was given to her grandson as heir. Two years later, she was celebrated with a Google Doodle.