Kamini Roy — Rise of feminism

A tribute to the legend

In the present, we can witness numerous activists and organizations dedicated to the cause of women’s rights and their empowerment.

One name that stands out and deserves special recognition is “Kamini Roy,” a renowned Bengali poet, female activist, and educator during pre-independent India. Her contributions to the feminist movement are etched in golden letters and will always be remembered.

About Kamini Roy:

Shri Chandi Charan Sen, a prominent judge, writer, and leading member of the Brahmo Samaj, welcomed a baby girl on October 12, 1864, in Basanda village, Barisal District, which was then part of the Bengal Presidency in British India (now in Bangladesh). Named Kamini, she was among the first girls in pre-independence India to receive formal education. Growing up in a cultured and educated family, Kamini gained knowledge from her father’s extensive collection of books, utilizing his library to expand her understanding of various subjects.

Her brother, Shri Nisith Chandra Sen, a renowned barrister in the Calcutta High Court and later the Mayor of Calcutta, and her sister, Jamini, who served as the house physician to the royal family of Nepal, further exemplified the family’s prestigious background.

Despite societal expectations for women to prioritize marriage and family, Kamini defied the odds and pursued her education with unwavering determination. In 1886, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Sanskrit honors from Bethune College under the University of Calcutta. Although she had a keen interest in mathematics, she became the first female student in pre-independent British India to graduate with honors in her chosen subject. Another notable figure of the time, Kadambini Ganguly, also achieved this feat as one of the country’s first two women honors graduates, albeit being three years older than Kamini at the same institution.

Following her graduation, Kamini joined the teaching staff at Bethune College in the same year, upholding the reputation of her illustrious family. In 1894, she married Shri Kedarnath Roy and became a mother of two children. Subsequently, she retired from her writing profession, citing her children as her living poems when readers inquired about her sudden hiatus.

However, after the passing of her husband and oldest son in 1909, Kamini resumed writing poetry and continued to express her creative spirit.

Kamini Roy’s contribution:

Kamini Roy met Abala Bose, a prominent social activist in the fields of women’s education and widows’ rights, during their time together at the University of Calcutta. They became friends, and Kamini was greatly moved by Abala’s advocacy for women’s rights. Kamini’s passion for fighting for equal rights for women was strengthened by this experience.

The Ilbert Bill, popularly known as “the White Mutiny,” was enacted in 1883 under Lord Ripon’s Viceroyalty. The majority of English women met Viceroy’s Council member Sir Courtenay Peregrine Ilbert with ferocious hostility when he prepared the measure. In 1884, however, the bill was passed with an amendment by Lord Ripon.

According to the statement, either European or Indian District Magistrates or Sessions Judges could hear cases involving Europeans. Defendants were also permitted to request a jury comprised of at least 50% European citizens. Kamini Roy and other Indian social workers and citizens backed this legislation.

Kamini Roy did much to educate women about their rights through her poetry, fiction, and other writings. She was a major figure in the 1921 women’s rights organisation Bangiya Nari Samaj, along with Kumudini Mitra (Basu) and Mrinalini Sen. Kamini diligently advocated for the suffrage of women in Bengal.

The first Bengali women voted for the first time in 1925, after the Bengal Legislative Council granted them limited suffrage. It is important to remember that women did not gain the right to vote in Europe or France until 1944. In 1952, women gained the right to vote in Greece, while it wasn’t until 1971 in Switzerland.

As a female member of the Female Labour Investigation Commission from 1922 to 1923, Kamini Roy undertook various initiatives to strengthen women’s rights and empower them through every possible means. Her contributions were instrumental in paving the way for a more inclusive and equal society.

The literary world gained an extraordinary talent with the arrival of Kamini Roy – an incredible poet and author whose straightforward yet impactful writing style earned wide readership appreciation. In 1889, Kamini Roy introduced herself through “Alo Chhaya,” a collection of poems that took inspiration from the works of another famous Sanskrit writer, Rabindranath Tagore.

Above all else, she acted as an advocate for fellow writers’ dreams, providing support whenever possible, just as when she encouraged young Sufia Kamal not to give up on writing during their meeting in Barisal in 1923.

Through all this, Kamini Roy established her mark on various genres, achieving great esteem in the literary scene.

  • Mahasweta

  • Pundorik

  • Pouraniki

  • Dwip O Dhup

  • Jibon Pathey

  • Nirmalya

  • Malya O Nirmalya

  • Ashok Sangeet

  • Gunjan (Children’s book)

  • Balika Sikkhar Adarsha (a book of songs and essays for children)
  • She was honoured with the Jagattarini Gold Medal by Calcutta University

    She became the president of Bangla Literature Summit (1930) and vice-president of Bangiya Sahitya Parishad in 1932–33.

    In the year 1933, she ended her physical journey on earth and started her new journey for her heavenly abode.

    In occasion of her 155th birth anniversary, Google commemorated Kamini Roy with a Doodle On 12 October 2019.

    She will always be remembered for her immortal quote “Why should a woman be confined to the home and denied her rightful place in society?”


    Life of KaminiRoy
    Google celebrates Kamini Roy’s 155th birth anniversary
    Kamini Roy Google Doodle
    Kamini Roy – A Bengali Reformer and India’s 1st Woman Honours Graduate


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