The Legends

With the exception of the names of Sm. Chandramukhi Bose and Dr.Kadambini Ganguli, the names of the Legends are arranged alphabetically.

This is a humble attempt to pay tribute to them in the occasion of the centenary year of Bethune College Sammilani.

Chandramukhi Bose

One of the first two female graduates of entire British Empire from Bethune College.
Chandramukhi was born on 3rd August, 1860, in Mahanad, Bengal and went to Dehradun in her very childhood. Her father was Rev. Bhuban Mohan Bose, Headmaster of R.P. Mission School in Dehradun.

She appeaered at the Entrance examination of Calcutta University in 1876 without any formal recognition and attained the standard. Then she passed B.A. in 1883 from Bethune College and the convocation of the university was held on March10, 1883, when for the first time in history two women was awarded their bachelor’s degree. She was the first Indian lady who obtained her Master’s degree in English in 1884 from Calcutta University.

Chandramukhi started her career as the Assistant Lady Superintendent in Bethune school and became the Lady Superintendent in 1886. In 1888 the college separated from the school and the designation of lady superintendent was converted into that of Principal in 1893; thus becoming the first lady Principal of Bethune College. Thus she was renowned as the first lady Principal of an academic institution in South Asia.

Her devotion to the cause of female education and zeal to her duties increased the number of female students of the college considerably even in the extremely conservative atmosphere of the nineteenth century Bengal. However, the hard work took its toll on her health and she retired prematurely on October, 1901. After retirement she went back to Dehradun and engaged herself in social work.
She passed away on 3rd February, 1944.

Kadambini Ganguly

One of the first two female graduates of entire British Empire from Bethune College.
Kadambini Bose was born on July 18, 1862 in Bhagalpur; her father Brajakishore Bose was the Headmaster of Bhagalpur School and Brahma reformer.

She was the first female to pass the Entrance examination of University of Calcutta as a regular candidate in 1878 and then passed B.A. from Bethune College in 1883.

In 1883 she was married to Dr. Dwarakanath Ganguli, and was encouraged by her husband to study medicine. Then she joined the Calcutta Medical College despite strong criticism from the society as well as much trouble and threat of recourse of legal action.

She took a full course of medical education, but in the final examination failed to secure the degree, instead she was awarded GBMC. Undaunted, she decided to complete her education by going to England. She travelled to Edinburgh in 1892 and qualified as LRCP (Edinburgh), LRCS (Glasgow) and LFPS (Dublin). She was the first lady physician with western medical degree in the whole of South Asia. After returning from England, she was attached to Lady Dufferin Hospital for a long time. She was a dedicated and efficient physician.

Kadambini Ganguli also exhibited unusual social and political awareness. She participated in the fifth session of the Indian National Congress at Tivoli Gardens, Calcutta, in 1890. She became the President of Transvaal Indian Association which was formed after the imprisonment of Mahatma Gandhi in the Transvaal. She worked untiringly in the interest of the Indians in Transvaal. She also played a prominent role in the Ladies Conference held in 1907.

She spoke eloquently in the Medical Conference of 1915 against Calcutta Medical College’s practice of not admitting female candidates in its medical courses. As a result of her lecture, Calcutta Medical College revised her policies and the doors of this prestigious institution were opened to female students. Kadambini Ganguli was an enthusiastic supporter of female suffrage. After her husband’s death in 1898, who was her friend, philosopher and guide, she had largely withdrawn from public life and it had taken a big toll on her health also. Even after that she worked untiringly in the interest of women. Just one year before her death, she visited Bihar and Orissa with Mrs. K. N. Ray in the interests of women mining labourers there.

She passed away on 7th October, 1923, within fifteen minutes after returning from her regular medical calls and before any medical aid could be furnished.

Kadambini Ganguli is the epitome of unflinching courage, unfazed determination along with a tender, sensitive heart which nursed the poor and the sick and fought for the injustice directed towards them. In the history of female education in India, the name of Kadambini Ganguli will remain written in golden letters.

Amiya Tagore

Bengali Rabindra Sangeet vocalist.
Born in Calcutta on 12 February 1908, she was the daughter of barrister Surendranath Roy and was educated in Bethune School and admitted to the Intermediate class of Bethune College in 1926. She was amongst the few singers to learn directly from Rabindranath Tagore; played the role of Pramada in Tagore’s dance drama Mayar Khela, directed by Kabiguru himself. Later she became a member of the Tagore family through her marriage to Tagore’s third elder brother Hemendranath Tagore’s grandson Hridindranath Tagore

She had early training in classical music from Nagendra Kishore Bandopadhayay, dhrupad from Jogindranath Bandyopadhyay, kheyal and tappa from Ramesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay. She got the rare opportunity of learning Tagore songs from Rabindranath Tagore, Dinendranath Tagore, Sarala Devi Choudhurani and Indira Devi Chaudhurani and has preserved the special gayaki of Tagore songs in her own renderings.

She passed away on 13 November 1986.

Asima Chattopadhyay

Renowned scientist in chemistry.
Born on 23 September, 1917 she was the daughter of Dr. Indranarayan Mukhopadhyay, teaching Chemistry in Bangabasi College. She was educated in Bethune school and passed I.Sc. from Bethune College in 1934; qualified M.Sc. in Chemistry as first class second from Calcutta University in 1938, thus first female M.Sc. in Chemistry in India . She was the first female recipient of D.Sc. in 1944 for her research work in Natural Products from Calcutta University. She did her post doctoral research work in California Institute of Technology with Watamal fellowship in 1947, also in Zurich University, Switzerland. She joined Calcutta University as a Reader in 1954 and became famous as a teacher and research guide in Chemistry and was engaged in research work for about 60 years. She was honoured the ‘Khayara Professor’ of the department in 1962 and continued till her retirement in 1982.

She received a number of prestigious awards, some of which are: Premchand Roychand scholarship of Calcutta University, first female recipient of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in chemical sciences in 1961, Padma Bhushan in 1975 and became the first female scientist to be elected as the President of the Indian Science Congress in 1975, Women of the Year by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce in the same year and many more. She was nominated by the President of India as a Member of Rajya Sabha from February 1982 to May 1990.

She passed away on November 22, 2006. Her dedication, determination and hard work made her a brilliant personality.

Bina Das

A dauntless freedom fighter.
Born on August 24,1911, she was the daughter of a well known Brahmo teacher Beni Madhab Das and a social worker Sarala Devi. She was the student of I.A. in Bethune College in 1928. She was a member of Chatree Sangha from her college days. She attempted to shoot the Bengal Governor Stanley Jackson during the convocation in the Senate Hall of Calcutta University but failed and was sentenced to nine years of rigorous imprisonment.

After her release, she joined Congress party and participated in Quit India movement and was imprisoned again. She was a MLA of West Bengal Assembly from 1946 – 1951. She was awarded Padmashri in 1960. She authored a book Shrinkhal Jhankar which gives a valuable glimpse of the political situation of the country at that time.

She died in 1986

Chameli Bose

A person of outstanding scholarly achievement.
Born on 21 August, 1911 she was the daughter of Haripada dutta, famous attorney of Calcutta High court. She stood first among girls in Matriculation examination in 1927, also in I.Sc. examination in 1929 from Bethune College. In 1931 She stood third in B.Sc. examination in Physics honours in Calcutta University and was one of the first two female Honours Graduate in Physics in India. She stood first in M.Sc. in Physics in 1933 from the same University, thus first female M.Sc. in Physics. She also passed Special B.A. with English and Bengali probably in 1935, then B.T. where she stood second. She received five gold medals in her academic career.

She joined Bethune College as a member of faculty in 1938 and initiated and worked hard to convert it a honours department in 1967. .

She retired from Bethune college in 1970 and served in B.Ed. college in Hastings House. She passed away on December 23, 1992 after her lecture at the inaugural programme of the Refresher Course in her own class room.

Kalpana Dutta

A patriot and revolutionary.
Born on July 27 1913 Kalpana passed I.A. from Bethune College in 1930. She was a member of Chatree Sangha from her college days. After the Chittagong Armoury case in 1930, she went to Chittagong and joined the Indian Republican army, Chattagram Branch, led by Surya Sen; actively participated in the ‘dynamite conspiracy’ case which ultimately failed.

In the second supplementary trial of the Chittagong Armoury raid case she was arrested in 1933 and was given a life sentence; however released in 1939. She joined Communist Party of India and served relief during the 1943 Bengal famine. She wrote an autobiographical book, Chattagram Astragar Akramonkarider Smritikatha.
She died on February 8, 1995.

Kamini Roy

Bengali poet and social worker.
Born on October 12, 1864 she was the daughter of Chandicharan Sen, a writer. She was educated in Bethune School and passed F.A. and B.A. in Sanskrit in 1886 from Bethune College and started teaching there. She was the first woman poet who began writing from 1880 and published her ‘Alo Chhaya’ in 1889 which created a stir in the literary world.

She worked with her pen for about fifty years. Some of her other notable literary contributions are: Nirmalya, Pouraniki, Malya O Nirmalya, Deep o Dhup, Jeebonpathe etc. She was the Vice President of Bangiyo satitya Parishad in 1932-33. Calcutta University honoured her with the Jagattarini Gold Medal. She was a very famous poet at her time.
She passed away on September 27, 1933.

Leela Roy

Social and political worker.
Born in 1900 in Assam, she was the daughter of Girish Chandra Nag, a deputy Magistrate and Kunjalata Nag. She stood first among the girls in B.A. in English in 1921 and awarded Padmavati Gold Medal. She was the first woman to be admitted to the post graduation class of Dhaka University and awarded her M.A. degree. She established ‘Deepali Sangha’ in Dhaka in 1923 where combat training were given; which subsequently founded free primary schools for girls, also a girls’hostel. She started her journal ‘Jayasree’ in 1931 and advocated revolutionary ideals.

She participated in Civil Disobedience Movement, Quit India Movement and imprisoned many times. She also served the victims of the Noakhali riot and set up relief camps. After the partition of India she helped the destitute women in Bengal. She was a close associate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
She passed away on June 11, 1970.

Pritilata Waddedar

A fearless revolutionary nationalist.
Born on May 5, 1911, Pritilata was the daughter of Jagabandhu Waddedar, a clerk in Chittagong Municipality and Pratibhamayi Devi. She stood first in the Intermediate examination among all the students from Dhaka board. At that time she joined Dipali Sangha, headed by Leela Nag. Then she joined Bethune College and passed B.A. with a distinction in 1932. She returned to Chittagong and joined as a head mistress in a local school.

She became a member of the revolutionary group of Surya Sen, popularly known as Masterda. In 1932, under the planning of Masterda, Pritilata led the attack on European Club of Chittagong; when all the members of the revolutionary group could escape safely but Pritilata was trapped by the British. She committed suicide using potassium cyanide.

Sarala Devi Chaudhurani

Bengali poet, singer and participated Indian Independence movement.
Born on September 9, 1872, she was the daughter of Swarnakmari Debi, a noted author, elder sister of Rabindranath Tagore and Janakinath Ghoshal, one of the first secretaries of the Bengal congress; and grand-daughter of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore. She was educated in Bethune School, admitted to Bethune College and stood first among the girls in B.A. in English in 1890 and was awarded Padmabati Gold Medal.

The fiery spirit that Sarala Debi exhibited will remain an ideal for all time. She was a poet, a singer, a fiery, an activist, later supported Gandhiji’s non-violence movement. She composed the music of Bandemataram of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay barring the first two stanzas at the behest of her uncle Rabindra Nath Tagore and sang it in the Congress of 1905. She edited Bharati patrika for a long period and spread patriotism by her own writings. Her collection of 100 such writings, named Satagan, was published. She founded Bharat Stree Mahamandal in Allahabad in 1910, the first women’s organisation in India and spread its branches all over the country to promote education for women irrespective of their class, caste or race. She was also well known for introduction of various functions like Birastami Brata to encourage the youth to serve the country. She knew Persian, French and authored some books including her autobiographical work, Jiboner Jharapata.
She died on August 18, 1945.

Shanta Devi

Bengali author, wrote for women’s emancipation.
Born in April 29, 1893 Shanta was the elder daughter of Ramananda Chattopadhyay, editor and publisher of very well known Prabasi, a bengai monthly and The Modern Review, an English one. Shanta Devi has contributed enormously in Bengali literature. She graduated from Bethune College in 1914 with distinction and awarded Padmavati Gold Medal for standing first among girl students of University of Calcutta.

She co-authored Udyanlata, Hindustani Upokatha, Sat Rajar Dhan etc. with her sister Sita Devi. She wrote novels, short stories, reviews and other articles. Her biography ‘Bharat Muktisadhak Ramananda Chattopadhyay O Ardhashatabdir Bangla’ was awarded the Bhubanmohini Gold Medal in 1949. She was a disciple of Abanindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose in painting in Santiniketan.
She died on May 30,1984.

Sita Devi

Bengali author, wrote for women’s emancipation.
Born on April 10, 1895, Sita was the younger daughter of Ramananda Chattopadhyay and younger sister of Shanta Devi. Sita Devi has a distinctive name for herself in children’s literature. She passed I.A. in 1914 and B.A. in English in 1916, both from Bethune College.

Apart from the collaboration with her elder sister, she authored many novels depicting the pitiful condition of women in the society. Her writings highlight the harmful customs of our society against women, like the dowry system, education of women, torture of brides etc. She authored 17 novels, some of which are - Pathikbandhu, Rajanigandha, Matir Basa, Mahamaya, Sonar Khancha etc. She also wrote many memoirs, short stories and translations from English and French. After the demise of Rabindranath Tagore, her reminiscences ‘Punyasmriti’ awarded her Leela prize.
She died on December 20, 1974.