Anasuya Sarabhai

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Anasuya Sarabhai (11 November 1885 – 1972) 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 on 11 November 1885 into the Sarabhai family, a 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]

Sarabhai returned to India in 1913[4] and started working for betterment of women and the poor. She also started 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. Mahatma 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. During the time, Sarabhai organized daily mass meetings of the workers that Gandhi addressed.[5] Following this, in 1920, the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majdoor 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 (SEWA).[6] Sarabhai died in 1972.[6] On 11 November 2017, Google celebrated Sarabhai's 132nd birthday with a Google Doodle,[7] visible to users in India.[8]

Anasuya Sarabhai was the aunt of Indian scientist Vikram Sarabhai who is regarded as the father of the Indian space program.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Role and Activities". Ahmedabad Textile Mills' Association. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ "What Made Anasuya Sarabhai, a Woman Born to Privilege, Become India's First Woman Trade Union Leader?". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  5. ^ Jha, Pravin Kumar (2012). Indian Politics in Comparative Perspective. Pearson Education India. p. 39. ISBN 9788131798874. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b Gargi Gupta (28 July 2013). "Sewa founder Ela Bhatt pays tribute to Anasuya Sarabhai". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Google celebrates 132nd birth anniversary of Anasuya Sarabhai". The Hindu. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Anasuya Sarabhai's 132nd Birthday". Google. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  9. ^ Bonner, Arthur (1990). Averting the Apocalypse: Social Movements in India Today. Duke University Press. p. 193. ISBN 0822310481. Retrieved 11 November 2017.