Bethune School

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Bethune School/Bethune College


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The Times of India

Calcutta got its first school for Native girls later than some other states, but Bethune school grew to be India’s first college for women in 1879. TOI reported extensively on both the school and the college

Started by British civil servant JEW Bethune. Came to Calcutta in 1848 as head of Government schools.

Started work on the girls’ school in 1849. First thing he said he did was secure the promise of the “valuable assistance of the lady who is about to take charge of your children.”

Bengali was the foundation language & English only for “subsidiary advantages” such as literature. Further, English only when parents wouldn’t “oppose such knowledge”

1879 |

Bethune School expanded to become India’s first women’s college. Bethune-school student Kadambini Bose, was the first woman to pass the University of Calcutta examination.

MAY 19 | 1849

Among our extracts today will be found a document to which proclamations of Governor-generals, gazette notices, votes of thanks in parliament... are as nothing — a document which intimates the commencement of a system by which alone the Natives can be instructed and elevated in the scale of society. Lest the reader may wonder what this marvellous state paper is, we beg to assure him that it is no more than the address of the honourable Mr Bethune at the opening of a Girls’ School in Calcutta. ... We feel convinced that great as is the importance we have attached to it, it is not one whit greater than is its due.


My Friends, this is a day of triumph to all of us — to you as fathers, because it is impossible that natural affection which form the better part of every man deserving the name, should not lead you to rejoice in the hope which this new institution holds out for the improvement of those who are most dear to you... I can feel something of a father’s joy... Documents put into my hands connected with this country...led me irresistibly to the conclusion ....that the day could not be distant when a call would be made to extend benefits of education... to the other half (women) of its (Bengal) inhabitants...

The Times of India’s CAUTION |

The experiment made at Calcutta will, we hope, speedily be repeated... The utmost prudence must be used against allowing ... prejudices to be outraged or tampered. Good faith ... secular instruction must .... any attempt made to introduce Christianity in disguise ... the cause of female education will be indefinitely postponed...

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