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AVANTIKA BAI GOKHALE (1882–1949)


Avantika Bai Gokhale was born of Chitpavan Brahmin parents in Tasgaon, and lived in Indore. She was married at the age of nine to Baban Gokhale, and her husband began her education before he left for London and China. She acquired a first class degree in midwifery in 1901, and read extensively on her own. Her husband lost his fingers in two accidents while handling machines in 1898 and 1903 and came home to stay with his wife. She was then earning from her practice as a midwife, and they decided to remain childless, as she was now the only breadwinner. Her practice gradually improved, and in 1912 she joined the Social Service League. In 1913 she accompanied the Raja of Ichalkaranji to London and met G.K. Gokhale, Sarojini Naidu and many prominent English people. She visited some London hospitals and learnt many useful medical tips.

On her return she met Gandhiji and visited him in 1916 at Sabarmati. She participated in the Champaran satyagraha and wrote Gandhiji’s biography in Marathi, published in 1918 with a preface by B.G. Tilak. In 1918 she started the Hind Mahila Samaj, mainly teaching embroidery and sewing to women, and remained its president for life. She worked for the Bombay Municipal Corporation for some years from 1926, helping to improve conditions in the slums and chawls of the city. She adopted Indu, a Saraswat girl, trained her in nursing and provided for her marriage. She lived simply and always wore khadi, presenting Gandhiji with a pair of handmade dhotis on his birthday every year.
 
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