Today marks the 155th birth anniversary of Bengali poet, Kamini Roy. She was also an activist and educator. Well, hashtags never solved the issues when it came to human rights. But this fierce woman was an advocate for the rights of women.
Kamini Roy was born into a prominent Bengali family in 1864 in the Bakerganj district of British India, which is now in Bangladesh. She was also the first woman to graduate with honors in the history of India.
In 1924, she asked, “Why should a woman be confined to the home and denied her rightful place in society?”
While her sister was a physician for Nepal’s Royal family, her brother was elected as the Mayor of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Her father Chandi Charan Sen was a judge and a writer. He was also a leading member of the Brahmo Samaj.
Her love for poetry began at an early age, even though Kamini was interested in mathematics. Her list of achievements is endless. Roy was also the first woman to attend school in British India.
She was so determined to pursue her education in a time when women were only expected to focus particularly on marriage.
She graduated with a BA honors degree in Sanskrit from Bethune College in 1886. While studying in the college she met, Abala Bose, who is also a prominent name when it comes to fighting for women’s education and improving the condition of widows. It was her friendship with Bose that inspired her to work for women’s rights.
Kamini also became a teacher at Bethune after her graduation and she published ‘‘Alo O Chhaya’ (Sunshine and Shadow), which is the first of her many books of poems, in 1889.
What we today know as feminism, she helped advance it in India long back. In 1926, she also worked and helped women from the Bengali community to win the right to vote.
The same year, Kamini was awarded the Jagattarini medal by Calcutta University for her literary accomplishments.
She married Kedarnath Roy in 1894 and had two children. Soon after that, she retired from her writing profession so that she can take better care of her children. She said, “My children are my living poems.” She again found solace in writing poetry after the death of her husband in 1909 and her oldest son.
Even though she passed away in 1933, but Kamini Roy’s life and works will keep inspiring us for generations.