Anasuya Sarabhai, a name we should know more about, but sadly we don’t. We know Mahatma Gandhi supported the works and thinking of a few women, who were always by his side. Anasuya Sarabhai was one of these women. Indian history is rich with the contributions of extraordinary women who have broken barriers and set an example for future generations. For instance, Savitribai Phule was one such woman. However, the stories of many of these women still remain in the dark. Anasuya Sarabhai was one such woman who dedicated her life and work for the betterment of the downtrodden and less fortunate.
She was affectionately called motaben meaning elder sister. Her words, and more so, her actions, even today, continue to inspire those who believe in a better and equal world for everyone. Let us now tell you the tale of Anasuya Sarabhai.
She was born in Ahmedabad in 1885. Though born into the affluent Sarabhai family, Anasuya Sarabhai was orphaned at the tender age of 9 when she lost both her parents.
Her paternal uncle took care of her and her two younger siblings after that. However, her uncle got her married unwillingly when she was 13. The unhappy marriage did not last long. Anasuya soon got divorced and returned to her own family. Her brother Ambalal Sarabhai, supported her in her desire to study further which she had earlier been denied by her uncle.
She completed her education in England and returned to India after having found her calling to serve the cause of social equality. It began in the form of a school which she opened for the poor children of all castes. She used to bathe and teach these children on her own. After this, she went on to open several creches and toilets for women, a maternity home and a hostel for harijan (untouchable) girls.
It was later, when she had an honest conversation with middle-class working women labourers, that she became an activist for the labour class of India. In 1914, when Ahmedabad was hit by a plague epidemic, upon the request of the labourers, Anasuya Sarabhai went on to demand fair wages from the mill owners. This wasn’t easy as it was her own brother, Ambalal, who was the then-president of the Mill Owners’ Association.
This was followed by a 21 one day strike following which the mill owners had to finally agree to the demands of the labourers. She played a pivotal role in the Kheda Satyagraha and the foundation for Gujarat’s oldest labour union, Majoor Mahajan Sangh (Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association or TLA). It was established on February 25, 1920.
In 1927, Anasuya also founded Kanyagruha, a school for the daughters of Ahmedabad’s textile workers and SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association of India).
Thus, Anasuya dedicated her entire life in the betterment of the less fortunate, even if it meant standing up and fighting against her own. We salute such an inspiring lady. What are your thoughts on the same? Don’t forget to let us know in the comments below.
(originally written for TopYaps.com)