Mar 7, 1886 New York Times
Women’s education in India
What has been done by the Brahmin lady now in this country.
Pundita Ramabai, the distinguished Brahmin lady, who with her little daughter, 5 years of age, arrived here yesterday in the British Princess to witness the graduation in medicine (at the women’s medical college, Philadelphia) of her relative, Mrs. Anadeebai Joshee, is a remarkable character. She is the daughter of the famous pundit of Poona
, Bombay Presidency, India
, who sacrificed his wordly prospects and eventually his life to the cause of emancipating the women of India
. He gave his daughter the same education that he gave his only son, and both the sister and brother became famed for their learning and traveled together throughout India
. The brother dying suddenly, the sister married (as few Hindu ladies are permitted to marry), the man of her choice, a graduate of Calcutta University
, a Sanskrit scholar and a pleader at law. About a year and a half of this marriage, which was a happy one, the husband died of Asiatic cholera.
Stricken to the earth by this bereavement, parents and brother also dead, darkness for a time encompassed the widow. Then, she rallied, to devote her life to improve the degraded condition of her countrywomen. For this purpose, she returned to her native city, Poona, and formed a society of ladies known as the Arya Mehila Sabba (sic), whose object was the establishment of native schools for girls. She then went from city to city throughout Bombay Presidency, establishing branch societies, and arousing the people through her eloquent appeals.
She is chiefly known in the United States through a remarkable scene in which, she was a prominent actor, in Poona, in September, 1882. At this time the English Education Commission visited this conservative and wealthy city to inspect the educational institutions, whereupon the leading Brahmin ladies, members of this newly formed society and others, to the number of about 300, notwithstanding a heavy rainstorm, assembled with their children in the Town Hall to welcome the education commission to show them that although the municipality had not encouraged girls schools, a real movement was being made by the best families of the Maharatta country. This was quite an unparalleled occasion among Brahmin women who are kept in such strict seclusion.
Pundita Ramabai Sancrita was the orator of the occasion. She read a leter in English to the commission, and made an eloquent speech in Merathi (sic). She dwelt upon the difficulties which, as women of good family, they had to encounter from the absence of trained female teachers and the absence of school books fit to be placed in girls’ hands. “We want” she said “education for our girls as much as for our boys, but the English government has supplied trustworthy teachers and suitable books for the boys and none for the girls.” The President of the Commission, Dr. W.W. Hunter, in replying to the address, expressed his pleasure at meeting such an assemblage, which was altogether a new experience for him in India. “If the women of India” he said “have really made up their minds that their girls ought to be educated all minor difficulties will quickly disappear.” As an immediate consequence members of the Poona municipality intimated to the commission the next day their willingness to take up the cause of the girls schools and to provide the necessary funds. Now, four years later, not only are there elementary schools, but a native high school for girls is in successful operation in Poona. IN 1883 Pundita Ramabai went to England to acquaint herself more fully with their methods of teaching, and in educational work in general. Her scholarship was tested by Prof. Max Mueller and others, both in Cambridge and Oxford, and pronounced sound, and on the recommendations of these distinguished friends she was appointed Professor of Sanscrit in a women’s college in Cheltenham. This position she has held for two years, in the meantime, improving the rich opportunities on every hand for special courses of study.
Her purpose in England accomplished, she is now about to return to India to resume her educational work. But the great event so fraught with significance to India, about to occur in Philadelphia, led her to decide to visit the United States, “that holy land called America” as she styles it in a recent letter, to witness the graduation as a doctor of medicine of Mrs Joshee, a Hindu Brahmin lady.