Who is Anasuya Sarabhai| Life and Achievements
Anasuya Sarabhai was a leader of Ahmedabad Mill Strike. She has been acclaimed as the pioneer of labour movement in India. She founded the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majoor Mahajan Sangh) in 1920, India’s oldest union of textile workers.
She was born in Ahmedabad on 11 November 1885 into an affluent Sarabhai family. She lost both her parents at the tender age of nine. At the age of 13, she was married off by her uncle unwillingly however her marriage lasted brief and she divorced her husband and returned to her own family.
After returning home, she went to England in 1912 to complete her medical study with the help of her elder brother, Ambalal Sarabhai. However, after knowing that animal dissection is against her religion, Jain beliefs, she switched to the London School of Economics when she realised that in medical degree animal dissection involved which was violation of her Jain beliefs. in England, she got influenced by the Fabian Society and Suffragette movement.
In 1913, she returned to India and started working for the betterment of marginal and disempowered communities. She opened school for poor students of all castes and creches and toilets for women. In 1914, Ahmedabad was hit by a plague epidemic and workers came to Anasuya and she took up their cause. She addressed the first meeting of workers on the banks of the river Sabarmati. She provided deadline to the mill owners which ultimately resulted in the victory of Anasuya and the mill-owners finally agreed to pay higher wages to the workers.
She also played major role in Kheda satyagraha. In 1918, she was successfull in increasing the wages of weavers by 35% with the help of Mahtama Gandhi. The peaceful strike took place in which tens of thousands of workers participated.
In 1920, Gandhiji formed Gujarat’s oldest labour union, Majoor Mahajan Sangh (Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association). The first meeting took place at Anasuya’s Mirzapur bungalow where Gandhi declared Anasuya the lifelong president of the union.
In 1927, Anasuya also founded Kanyagruha, a school for the daughters of Ahmedabad’s textile workers.
Her closest associate, Ella Bhatt founded Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA).
Anasuya Sarabhai died in 1972.