RAMABAI RANADE (1862–1924)
Ramabai Ranade was a social worker. Married to Mahadev Govind Ranade, the lawyer and reformer, when she was but 11, Ramabai yet managed to transcend her beginnings with the willing help of her husband. Ranade had wanted to marry a widow but was forced by his family to accept Ramabai, and initially their relationship was fraught with bewilderment on her part and disappointment on his because of the arrangement. But Ranade then began to teach his young wife to read and write, and she responded ably to these new demands, showing herself an apt and able pupil.
Ramabai made her entry into public life in the 1870s but it was after Justice Ranade’s death in 1901 that she wholly identified herself with the cause of women in India. She willingly became a Visitor of the Central Prison and the Lunatic Asylum at Yeravada. She regularly visited the prison, prayed with women-prisoners and tried to regenerate their souls. She visited the Lunatic Asylum and attended meeting of its managing committee. She went to see boys in the Reformatory School, spoke to them and distributed sweets to them on festive occasions.
She was soon knowledgeable enough to manage his affairs, and after his death in 1901 she edited and published his speeches and writings. In 1881 she participated in meetings of the Prarthana Samaj. She was active in the campaign for women’s franchise in India, and drew attention to the plight of Indian labourers in the Fiji Islands. In 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920 she presided over the sessions of the Bharat Mahila Parishad.
She was president of the Bombay Seva Sadan from 1908 till her death, and of the Poona Seva Sadan from 1909. She established clubs where housewives could learn sewing and first aid as well as Marathi and English. Her work for the Seva Sadans included the establishment of a hostel and arranging for nurses’ training at the David Sassoon Hospital from 1911. In 1912 she served on the Central Famine Relief Committee. She wrote her autobiography in Marathi, Amchya Ayushyatil Kanhi Athawani, which gives a frank picture of her life in a traditional household with a progressive husband, and the sometimes delicate feats she had to perform, balancing the demands of both. Her most outstanding contributions were agitating for compulsory and free primary education for girls; and organizing the women’s suffrage movement in Bombay Presidency in 1921-22.
Ramabai Ranade’s birth centenary was celebrated on 25 January 1962 and a stamp was released on the occasion.