When women support each other, incredible things happen. And only empowered women empower women. – Story of Abala Bose
This is the story of a woman who gave a purpose to a lot of other women. This is the story of a woman of substance.
On August 8th 1865, Abala Das was born in the renowned Brahmo family to the great reformer Durga Mohan Das and Bhramamoyee in Barisal, a major city on the south of central Bangladesh. Both her parents were people who led a life with unparalleled values. Abala grew up in an environment where women were empowered.
However, this did not resonate with society at large as a girls education was not thought of as necessary. After her schooling, Abala chooses medicine as her career. She passed her entrance exam with a scholarship in 1881, and then went to Madras to study. She cleared her final examination but returned due to her ailing health. She cleared the exam but the irony is that she never got to know that she did.
At the age of 23, she married Jagdish Chandra Bose, famously known as the father of radio science. She accompanied him to all of his tours and understood how education was being provided to girls in various places.
Her zeal to better the lives of many women, married, unmarried and widows, led her to establish the Nari Shakti Samiti in 1919 to educate and empower women. The organization established many primary schools for women. The schools also aimed at making women physically fit and trained in self-defense. She realized that Brahmin pundits ought to be replaced with female teachers to make girls comfortable in schools. But, she understood that only setting up schools might not help as the teachers were not professionally trained.
With her concern towards the distraught, abandoned, estranged and miserable widows in society she established the Vidyasagar Bani Bhavan for them in 1925. It aimed at solving the two-fold problem by providing education and teacher’s training to widows, who would then go on to be employed in the primary schools established by Nari Shakti Samiti. Such was her commitment to the cause. Not just this, the branches of Nari Shakti Samiti trained women in vocational activities like embroidery, sewing, etc to make them financially independent and make them capable of contributing to the family income.
Lady Abala Bose during her lifetime established about 88 Primary Schools and 14 Adult Educational Centers in different parts of undivided Bengal. In India, she was the first person who thought of institutional Pre-Primary and Primary Teacher’s Training.
Her thought provoking nature was unexpected in those days. She remains the greatest feminist of her time and truly reminds us of the heights which women can achieve once they set their heart on it. In fact, her words from the Modern Review, a leading English magazine in those days, tell her what a gem of a person she was. In her article, she argues that women should have a deeper and extended education, ‘not because we may make better matches for our girls… not even that the services of the daughter-in-law may be more valuable in the home of her adoption, but because a woman like a man is first of all a mind, and only in the second place physical and a body.’
After the death of her husband, she donated Rs. 10,00,000 to set up the Sister Nivedita Adult Education Fund, which provided for literacy classes, first aid, home gardening, and many more to women in rural areas. She also built the Sadhana Ashram, a day before she died, and handed it over to the Brahmo Samaj. She passed away on 25th April, 1951.
The world should be proud of such women who selflessly empowered women not just in their generation but for generations to come. They have paved the way for a brighter future for all of us. Abala Bose was a true feminist in every sense and gave purpose to the lives of so many women. Ninety years ago, India had such a reformer who went on to work towards the upliftment of women till her last breath. She is an epitome of strength and a woman of substance, and inspiration for all of us.