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ANASUYA SARABHAI (1885–1972)


Anasuya Sarabhai was a social and labour activist. She founded the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association in 1920, which later grew into the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). She followed Gandhi but would not describe herself as a Gandhian.

She was born on 11 November 1885 and married at 12, though the marriage was later annulled. In 1911 she went to England and studied at the London School of Economics, and was influenced by Fabian socialism and the suffrage movement. Her brother Ambalal Sarabhai was also an activist.

Ahmedabad had about 100 establishments engaged in the weaving of turbans, 50 in the manufacture and sale of carpets and 70 shops producing and marketing silk goods. The seeds of militant but non-violent trade unionism were first sown in the second decade of the twentieth century by ‘Anasuyaben’ as she was called. She organized Ahmedabad’s cotton textile labour along Gandhian lines of thought and worked in close cooperation with other socialists, notably Shankarlal Banker. She remained President of the Labour Association till her death.
 
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