Anasuya Sarabhai

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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.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

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.[2] She undertook an unsuccessful child marriage at the age of 13.[2] 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.[3] Whilst in England she was influenced by the Fabian Society and got involved in the Suffragette movement.[2]

Political career[edit]

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.[2] 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.[1]

Legacy and death[edit]

Sarabhai was called Motaben, Gujarati for "elder sister".[2] She mentored Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association of India.[4] Sarabhai died in 1972.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Role and Activities". Ahmedabad Textile Mills' Association. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e 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. 
  3. ^ "Sarabhai family". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Gargi Gupta (28 July 2013). "Sewa founder Ela Bhatt pays tribute to Anasuya Sarabhai". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 20 June 2014.