|Saroj Nalini Dutt||Born: 1887-10-09||Died: 1925-01-19|
|Father: Brajendranath De||Mother: Nagendra Nandini De|
|Children: Birendrasaday Dutt|
|Siblings: Kanak Nalini De, Lalit Kumar De, Prafulla Nalini De, Naba Nalini Basu, Niraj Nalini Ghose, Hem Nalini Mitra, Sarasi Nalini Datta, Nirmal Nalini Datta, Shishir De, Hemanta Kumar De, Basanta Kumar De|
Saroj Nalini Dutt, MBE, (Bengali: সরোজনলিনী দত্ত) (9 October 1887–19 January 1925) was an Indian feminist and social reformer.
Saroj Nalini was born in her father’s country house in Bandel, near Hooghly, in Bengal. Her pa
rents were Brajendranath De,
ICS and Nagendra Nandini Dé (née Bose). She was brought up with her brothers and sisters and shared with them an education under a tutor and a governess. In 1905, she married Gurusaday Dutt ICS. In 1909, her only child Birendrasaday was born.
Saroj Nalini was a well-known social reformer, educationist and a pioneer of the movement for the uplifting of women in Bengal. She pioneered the formation of Mahila Samitis (Women’s Institutes) in Bengal and helped them receive vocational training to be able to earn for themselves and support their families. She was particularly concerned about the plight of Hindu widows. She dedicated herself to the cause of women both inside and outside the home as well as the community. Her dedication to the improvement of the condition of Indian women was evident in the great efforts she took to actively participate in the raising of the social status of women, mostly belonging to the former Bengal Presidency. She realised that as it was not possible to send mothers to school, they needed to be educated by other means, such as Mahila Samitis in the district towns in Bengal and then gradually in each and every village. She wanted the purdahnashin ladies to first meet amongst themselves, then possibly keep an eye on the local hospitals of their respective towns and villages, and then attend Adult education classes to educate themselves. Later, the ladies could then go back and educate the rest of their family members. She started her first Mahila Samiti in 1913 at Pabna (now in Bangladesh) with the object of developing friendly cooperation among the purdahnashin ladies. Subsequently, she started the Mahila Samitis of Birbhum (1916), Sultanpur (1917), and Rampurhat (1918). The Mahila Samiti she started in 1921 at Bankura dedicated itself to social upliftment and to education of rural women. It started training midwives and established a Maternity Home. She also took the lead in introducing the charka (spinning wheel) in village homes. She reorganized the local girls’ school in Birbhum which was called ‘Sir Rivers Thompson School’. In recognition of her distinguished and dedicated service in the field of social welfare, she was awarded an M.B.E. in 1918. Sadly, she could not fulfil her dream in her lifetime, as she died when she was only 37.
After her death in 1925, her husband Gurusaday Dutt founded The Saroj Nalini Dutt Memorial Association as the apex body for all the Mahila Samitis in Bengal. This body was later affiliated to the Associated Country Women of the World, an international organisation dedicated to the upliftment of the status of women worldwide. This organisation’s activities were greatly expanded by her daughter-in-law Aroti Dutt between 1942 and 2003.
Praise for her work came from the highest quarters of the educated segment of the Bengali as well as English society in the first half of the twentieth century. Dinabandhu
C.F.Andrews wrote about her: “ …Her name had become intimately associated with the Women’s Movement, and her glowing inspiration as one who stood out for women’s freedom was felt throughout the whole of the Bengal Presidency. The devotion of her heart to the Women’s Movement was so deep that it had become with her an all-absorbing passion.”
Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, whom she and her husband met in Santiniketan, wrote about her: “ …as I read this little sketch of the life and work of Saroj Nalini, I realised that her husband, …, is indeed a fortunate man. For such a woman as Saroj Nalini cannot be lost even in death … Ordinarily when we look for the typical Bengali woman, we think of one whose activities are confined within the four walls of her home … Saroj Nalini lived for the most of her life in the midst of the crowd outside her home. Her life’s work was not confined to the family circle only; her home sphere comprised many and varied elements … Her relations with this large home circle were rendered gracious through her sweetness, and beneficient through her unselfishness … In her own life the home was not sacrificed to society, nor society to the home. ”
Her husband, Gurusaday Dutt in his book A Woman of India: Being the Life of Saroj Nalini Dutt wrote: “ …to make the country advance, the first and foremost work was awakening of its women. In spite of illiteracy amongst great majority of purdah women in Bengal, she had an unfaltering faith in their honesty and integrity of character and their capacity for efficient work. With this object in view she established Mahila Samitis (Womens Institutes) wherever she went and made every possible endeavour to rouse up women. ”
She became the Secretary of the Indian Section of the Calcutta League of Women’s Workers (later Bengal Presidency Council of Women), Member of the Council of the Nari Siksha Samiti (Women’s Educational League), and Member of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s committee which was to make suitable arrangements for allowing women to elect councillors. She was also the Vice President of the Sylhet Union, an association set up for the promotion of female education in the district of Sylhet. For her contribution to the cause of the upliftment of women in Bengal she was awarded an MBE by the government.