Kamini Roy (12th October 1864 – 27th March 1933) was a Bengali poet, educator, and Social activist, who was the first woman to graduate with honors in British India.
Kamini Roy was known for her work advocating for women’s rights and helping advance feminism in the Indian subcontinent.
Born on 12th October 1864 to an elite family in the Bakergunj district of the Bengal Presidency, Kamini had an early passion for mathematics but decided to pursue Sanskrit. She earned a bachelor of arts degree with honors in the language from Bethune College of Calcutta university in 1886 and started teaching in the same institution.
Nisith Chandra Sen, her brother, was a renowned lawyer of the Calcutta high court and later was the mayor of Calcutta.
Her sister Jamini was a house physician of the royal family of Nepal.
In her Bengali essay titled “The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge,” she wrote,
“The male desire to rule is the primary, if not the only, stumbling block to women’s enlightenment … They are extremely suspicious of women’s emancipation. Why? The same old fear – ‘Lest they become like us.”
Kamini had also begun writing in her younger years. In 1889, she published Alo O Chhaya, her first book of poems. While at Bethune, she met Abala Bose, who was also known for her work in the upliftment of women’s emancipation and women’s education.
There are several notable works of Kamini Roy, along with his famous Bengali poem Alo o Chaya, such are Mahasweta, Pundorik, Pouraniki, Dwip O Dhup, Jibon Pathey, Nirmalya Malay O Nirmalya, Ashok Sangeet, Gunjan (Children’s book), Balika Sikkhar Adarsha (Essays).
In 1921, she was one of the leaders, along with Kumudini Mitra (Basu) and Mrinalini Sen, of the Bangiya Nari Samaj, an organization fighting for woman’s suffrage.
She was very much influenced by the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Sanskrit literary works, which helped her to formalize his ideas of woman’s emancipation from all kinds of traditional patriarchal restrictions imposed on women to make them under the subjugate of males.
She visited village to village and influenced many younger woman poets and writers to write for the sake of woman’s upliftment and their all-around development in British India. She emphasized education and made it the basis for woman’s emancipation.
In her later years, Kamini Roy worked towards allowing women in Bengal the right to vote. Her efforts allowed women to exercise their franchise in the 1926 Indian general election. She was the recipient of the Jagattarini Gold Medal from Calcutta University. She died on 27th March 1933 and left a remarkable contribution to the upliftment of women in their all-around development.