Anasuya Sarabhai was a pioneer of the women’s labour movement in India. She founded the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majoor Mahajan Sangh), India's oldest union of textile workers, in 1920.
Early life and education
Sarabhai was born in Ahmedabad in 1885 into the Sarabhai family, a wealthy family of industrialists and business people. Both her parents died when she was nine, so she, her brother Ambalal Sarabhai, and a younger sister were sent to live with an uncle. She undertook an unsuccessful child marriage at the age of 13. With the help of her brother, she went to England in 1912 to take a medical degree, but switched to the London School of Economics when she realised the animal dissection involved in obtaining a medical degree was in violation of her Jain beliefs. Whilst in England she was influenced by the Fabian Society and got involved in the Suffragette movement.
Once back in India, she worked for betterment of women and the poor; she opened a school. She decided to get involved in the labour movement after witnessing exhausted female mill workers returning home after a 36-hour shift. She helped organise textile workers in a 1914 strike in Ahmedabad. She was also involved in a month-long strike in 1918, where weavers were asking for a 50 per cent increase in wages and were being offered 20 per cent. Gandhi, a friend of the family, was by then acting as a mentor to Sarabhai. Gandhi began a hunger strike on the workers' behalf, and the workers eventually obtained a 35 per cent increase. Following this, in 1920, the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majoor Mahajan Sangh) was formed.
Legacy and death
- "Role and Activities". Ahmedabad Textile Mills' Association. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- B.N. Goswamy (4 August 2013). "A recent exhibition on Anasuya Sarabhai, popularly known as Motaben, paid a tribute to the courageous woman, who worked selflessly for the uplift of the less fortunate". The Tribune. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- "Sarabhai family". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Gargi Gupta (28 July 2013). "Sewa founder Ela Bhatt pays tribute to Anasuya Sarabhai". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 20 June 2014.