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FAZILATUNNESSA ZOHA (1905–1976)


Fazilatunnessa Zoha made history in 1925 as the first Muslim woman to be awarded a degree, and moreover this was in mathematics. Subsequently she also did her Master’s in the same subject. She came from a simple Muslim family of Tangail, and had little in her background to foreshadow this feat. In 1921 she passed her Matriculation (as the school-leaving examination was then called) handsomely from the Eden School of Dhaka. She went to Calcutta to study mathematics at Bethune College, then returned to Dhaka University, which had been founded the same year she completed her Matriculation, to study for her Master’s degree. She was the first Muslim alumna of Dhaka University. Her achieving her MA in 1927 was a national event, and Nazrul Islam wrote a poem commemorating it. The editor of the progressive periodical Saugat organised a reception for her in the teeth of orthodox horror. Fazilatunessa did not let her training go to waste; she took up a position at Bethune College teaching mathematics, became head of the department and then Vice Principal till 1947. When the country was partitioned, her family decided to live in Pakistan, and they moved to Dhaka. Fazilatunnessa became Principal there of Eden College.
 
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