The Pundita Ramabai and Her Daughter
On 11 March, 1889 the Indian activist known as Pandita Ramabai opened
her Sharada Sadan (or Home for Learning) in Chowpatty, an area of
Mumbai (earlier known as Bombay). She designed this institution to
further a cause dear to her heart: security and education for Hindu women
who were widowed young. With this, after spending five years abroad in
England and the USA, Pandita Ramabai launched her mission to improve
the lives and opportunities of Indian women.
Personal Life: She was born as Ramabai Dongre, a high-caste Brahmin.
While she was still very young her family fell into poverty and took to the
roads as religious vagrants, travelling the length and breadth of the Indian
subcontinent and learning many of its languages. When she was 16 both of
her parents died of starvation, closely followed by her sister. Only she and
her brother were left. Despite these horrors, her taste for reading enabled
her to become the first woman in India to earn the titles of pandita and
Sarasvati at the age of 20, after passing the examination by the faculty of
the University of Calcutta. She then married a man of a labouring caste.
Ramabai’s husband died less than two years afterwards, leaving her
with a daughter. In the first year of her widowhood she did three highly
significant things. She founded the Arya Mahila Samaj, a society of high-
caste Hindu women working for the education of girls and against child
marriage. She published her first book in Marathi called Stri Dharma Niti