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Kamini Roy, Bengali Reformer & India's 1st Woman Honours Graduate, Honoured by Google Doodle Today

One of the first girls to attend school in British India, Kamini Roy graduated with a bachelor of arts degree with Sanskrit honours from Bethune College of the University of Calcutta in 1886.

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Updated:October 12, 2019, 7:48 AM IST
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Kamini Roy, Bengali Reformer & India's 1st Woman Honours Graduate, Honoured by Google Doodle Today
Screen grab of Saturday's Google Doodle

Google Doodle on Kamini Roy | Google doodle remembered Kamini Roy, a feminist social reformer and the first woman to graduate with honours in India on Saturday.

Born on October 12, 1864 in Basanda village in then Bakergunj district of Bengal Presidency that now falls Bangladesh’s Barisal district, Roy joined Bethune School in 1883. One of the first girls to attend school in British India, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree with Sanskrit honours from Bethune College of the University of Calcutta in 1886. She started teaching there in the same year.

Kadambini Ganguly, one of the first two Indian women honours graduates, was three years senior to her in the same institution.

Roy was born in an elite Bengali Baidya family. Her father, Chandi Charan Sen, a judge and a writer, was a leading member of the Brahmo Samaj.

Roy learnt from her father’s collection of books and used his library extensively. She was a mathematical prodigy but later her interest switched to Sanskrit.

She picked up the cue for feminism from a fellow student of Bethune, Abala Bose, who went on to be known for her social work in women's education and alleviating the condition of widows. Roy was inspired by Bose to advocate for women's rights.

Speaking to a girls' school in Calcutta, Roy had once said, "the aim of women's education was to contribute to their all-round development and fulfillment of their potential".

Later, in a Bengali essay titled The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she wrote, “The male desire to rule is the primary, if not the only, stumbling block to women's enlightenment ... They are extremely suspicious of women’s emancipation. Why? The same old fear – 'Lest they become like us'.”

In 1886, after graduating with honours distinction from Bethune college, Roy was offered a teaching position from the same college.

She had also taken part in the Ilbert Bill agitation and it was turned out to be the most productive period for her.

Roy quit teaching after 1894 and began publishing her work for five years. Shortly, she would marry Kedarnath Roy at the age of 30, which was against the norm during that time as it was highly unusual for women to get married in their thirties in colonial Bengal.

In 1923, she visited Barisal and encouraged Sufia Kamal, then a young girl, to continue writing. She was president of the Bengali Literary Conference in 1930 and vice-president of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad in 1932-33. Besides, Roy tirelessly worked to help Bengali women win the fundamental right to vote in 1926.

Roy was also influenced by the poet Rabindranath Tagore and Sanskrit literature. Later, Calcutta University honoured her with the Jagattarini Gold Medal for he contribution in the field of literature.

In her later life, she lived at Hazaribagh for some years. In that small town, she often had discussions on literary and other topics with such scholars as Mahesh Chandra Ghosh and Dhirendranath Choudhury. She died on 27 September 1933 while staying in Hazaribagh.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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