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Anasuya Sarabhai Biography – A Pioneer of Women’s Labour Movement

In this article, we will cover everything about Anasuya Sarabhai, from her eearly life and education to the birth of Textile Labour Association.

Article Index

1. Introduction

2. Anasuya Sarabhai’s early life and her education

3. Anasuya Sarabhai’s Political Career

4. Birth of Textile Labour Association by Anasuya

5. The mentee becomes the mentor- Anasuya and Ela Bhatt


If we look back in history, there have been so many iconic women who have done one thing or the other to break all the barriers and pave a path for the women of today’s world. Every step that was taken by the women in the early days has helped women in today’s world as they follow the footsteps of these inspiring leaders; however, some of them are unsung heroines.

One such unsung heroine of the country is Anasuya Sarabhai, who worked selflessly for the upliftment of the less fortunate. Often addressed as ‘Motaben,’ Anasuya Sarabhai has a unique place in the history of our country, and her actions and words have been of tremendous inspiration for many Indians who wanted to fight for a better and equal world for all the people.

Anasuya Sarabhai’s early life and her education

Born in Ahmedabad on 11th November 1885 into a Sarabhai family, a family of industrialists and business people, and her whole family loved her. Both her parents died when she was nine years old and her brother Ambala Sarabhai, and along with her younger sister, they all went to live with their uncle.

Born at the time when child marriage was practiced, she undertook an unsuccessful child marriage at the age of 13. Taking help from her brother, she went to England in 1912 to get a medical degree, but later she switched to the London School of Economics. She took this decision when she realized that the animal dissection is involved in obtaining the medical degree in violation of her Jain beliefs.

Anasuya Sarabhai’s Political career

After completing her education from the London School of Economics, she returned to India in 1913, and that’s when she started working for the betterment of women and the poor, and she started a school. Along with this, she decided to get involved in the labour movement after she witnessed some exhausted female mill workers returned home from a 36-hour shift.

She has worked in organizing a strike for textile workers in 1914 in Ahmedabad. Anasuya Sarabhai has been working in the upliftment of the lower-sectors of the society, and for this, she has been a part of many strikes throughout her life, which included a month-long strike in 1918. In this strike, the weavers were asking for a 50 percent increase in the wages, but they were being offered a raise of 20 percent.

Mahatama Gandhi mentored her, and along with Sarabhai, Mahatma Gandhi began a hunger strike on behalf of the workers and eventually obtained a 35 percent increase in the wages.

Birth of Textile Labour Association by Anasuya

By this time, she was involved in organizing daily mass meetings for the workers that Gandhi addressed, and following this, the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majdoor Mahajan Sangh) was formed for the betterment of the workers. The association was established on 25th February 1920, and the first meeting took place at Anasuya’s Mirzapur bungalow, where she was declared as the lifelong president for the union by Mahatma Gandhi.

The mentee becomes the mentor- Anasuya and Ela Bhatt

In 1950, Ela Bhatt- a young college graduate started working with the Textile Labour Association, and Anasuya mentored her. Being addressed as “Pujya” or “blessed” in his life by Mahatma Gandhi, Anasuya led a union of almost two lakh workers and never misused her power or position. She passed away in 1972 after leading a life that was dedicated to the betterment of the workers and working as a role model for many people.

In 2017, Google celebrated Sarabhai’s 132nd birthday with a Google Doodle, which was visible to users in India.