Bethune College, Kolkata - oldest women's college in Asia!!

Bethune women's College, Kolkata (Calcatta), Wikipedia

Bethune College, Kolkata (Calcatta) is the first  women's college not only in India but also in Asia and its founder was John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune (1801-1851). The college began as a  Hindu girls' School and grew into  Bethune School on 7 May 1849. The credit goes to John   Bethune who was a Barrister and Law Member of the Governor General's Council. Educated at  Trinity College, Cambridge  since his arrival in India in April 1848,  he had evinced keen interest  in native women's education  that would help  them think  on their own, lead a better life and promote the welfare of the society. Indian intellectuals like Pandit Madan Mohan Tarkalankar, Ram Gopal Ghosh, Raja Dakshina Ranjan Mukherjee and others gave him the needed support. Raja Dakshina Ranjan Mukherjee donated the land for the proposed college.

John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune (1801-1851)/
Like a river that starts out with droplets,the   Bethune School had a humble beginning with just  twenty-one girls on its roll. After the unexpected death of  Bethune on 12 August 1851, the then Gov. General  lord Dalhousie kept the work wok going forward.  The foundation stone was laid on 6 November 1850 and the school  now shifted to a new building on the West of Cornwallis Square, The merger of the well-known  Banga Mahila Vidyalaya, with Bethune grabbed the attention of the people. It became a necessity for the reorganised and better equipped school to start a college, offering higher studies for women.

The college started in 1879 with one student, one  Kadambini Bose. In 1883 there was another girl, she  was a native Christian girl from Dehradun. Both of them successfully   completed the degree course  of  the university of Calcutta. In 1887-88 batch, there were 11 girls on roll, one being in the MA class. In February 1888, Bethune College received affiliation to the University of Calcutta up to the BA standard; Chandramukhi Basu who had already completed her MA with Honours in English, became its first Principal.

The women's college  began to progress well and by 1914-15, there 72 students and by 1925-26, the number of students went up to 151. By next decade, the progress of the women's college was unstoppable and the studentship reached 260. The freedom struggle that saw many civil disturbances and strikes  and  world War II in the early 1940s  had interfered in the functioning of the school. After independence in August, 1947 the studentship showed upward mobility by 1849, and to cope with the demand and   rise of students, the college introduced several subjects in the degree courses. The note-worthy feature was the college had excellent, dedicated faculty members.  From the very inception, Bethune College made a mark in producing notable students and stood almost on par with the presidency college, Kolkata.

Many outstanding women, including many Muslim women  graduated from this college  made a mark in their respective fields of studies. Some among the old students were pioneers in the cause of education and liberation of women.