In traditional Indian society, a woman was expected to become a wife and mother and her childhood was considered preparation for this. Girls would learn how to cook, keep house, and care for their future husbands and children. Girls were not allowed to go to school because it was not expected to help them in their proper role as a wife and mother. By the time a girl was in her teenage years, it was common to have a marriage arranged and in the works. Girls would leave their parents' homes to live with their husbands and become mothers often before reaching adulthood. Girls were really considered a burden on their parents because they could not earn money for the home or take care of their parents in old age, and it was expected that their parents would pay a dowry, too. For this reason, infanticide was very common in India until the 20th century or so. It persists in rural areas or in the form of sex-selective abortion through all sects of society.
During the second half of the 19th century, the presence of the British had a big influence on the roles and status of women and girls. The Indian people, especially the expanding middle class, wanted to appeal to British social life and this included changing the treatment of girl children. In addition to establishing a number of missionary schools, the Crown began tracking literacy and female infanticide rates as a way of initiating reform in the status of girl children. Though there have been criticisms of the social, moral, and economic reforms imposed by the British government, it is undeniable that they set the stage for improving the lives of girl children.