Birth and Education
Born in 1885 in the affluent Sarabhai family of Ahmedabad, she lost her parents when she was only nine. She and her brother Ambalal were brought up by an uncle. At the age of 13, she had an unfortunate child marriage and refused to live with her husband. Supported by her brother, she went to England in 1911 to study medicine. When she realized that this would involve animal dissection, however, being a Jain and a vegetarian, she gave up her medical studies. Instead she attended lectures at the London School of Economics. In the account of her life that was recorded by her niece, Gira Sarabhai, it is noted that she listened to lectures by George Bernard Shaw and Sydney Webb and Chesterton, walked about in the streets unaccompanied, participated in the Suffragette movement, learnt ballroom dancing, and smoked heavily: "Abdulla No. 8, Ladies Cigarette" was her favorite .
Once back in India, she worked for betterment of women and also opened a school, took poor students in, regardless of caste, bathed them and taught them. The life-changing experience were a sight and a conversation which she had with women mill workers who were returning after nearly 36 hours of work.[clarification needed]After the 1914 plague that had decimated many in Ahmedabad was over, workers were demanding better wages and better working conditions. In 1918, Ahmedabad mill owners decided to replace bonuses with a 20% wage increase. On the other hand, weavers asked for 50% increase. Gandhi was asked to intervene and an arbitration board was set up. A hasty strike by a few workers caused a lock-out by the mill owners. 10,000 weavers were out for 4 weeks. Gandhi and Anasuyaben urged them to press for 35% increase. Gandhi went on a fast and eventually the mill owners agreed to a 35% wage increase. Following this in 1920 the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majoor Mahajan) was formed. Sarabhai was fondly called[by whom?] Motaben, Gujarati for "elder sister". She also mentored Ela Bhatt, founder of SEWA.
She died in 1972.
- "Role and Activities". Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- "Sarabhai family". Oxford DNB. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- B.N Goswamy. "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". Tribune. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- Gargi Gupta (28 July 2013). "Sewa founder Ela Bhatt pays tribute to Anasuya Sarabhai". DNA. Retrieved 8 December 2013.