Doodle celebrates this Saturday, the 11th of November with the 132nd birthday of the founder of the oldest union of 1920.
Union and union formations are norms of the current Indian system. But what do you know about the oldest union of textile workers of 1920, mainly its founder- Anasuya Sarabhai?
Anasuya Sarabhai, affectionately called ‘Motaben’ meaning elder sister in Gujarati was born in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1885. She belonged to the wealthy and illustrious family of Sarabhai and Godavariba. Her family members were wealthy industrialists and business people. Her parents died young and she along with her brother and a younger sister were sent to live with an uncle.
She was married off at the tender age of 13, and later divorced her husband and returned to her home. She went to England in 1912 to pursue a medical degree but when she realized that animal dissection is a part of the curriculum she switched to London School of Economics as it was a violation of her Jain beliefs.
Anasuya Sarabhai got influenced by the Fabian Society while she was in England and got involved in the Suffragette movement which was working towards obtaining the right to vote for women.
Anasuya Sarabhai worked for the betterment of women and poor when she returned back to India. In Ahmedabad, Sarabhai took up the cause of local mill workers after she came to know of their 36-hour work shifts. In 1914, she helped Ahmedabad’s weavers successfully organize their first strike for higher wages. Later, she became the voice of several workers and negotiated with mill owners on their behalf for better working conditions.
She also took part in a month-long strike where workers were demanding 50 percent increase in wages whereas they were getting only 20 percent increase in 1918. Mahatma Gandhi who was a close family friend supported her and began a hunger strike on the workers’ behalf. Finally, a 35 percent hike was obtained and in 1920, the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (Majoor Mahajan Sangh) was formed which is the oldest union in the country. Anasuya Sarabhai remained the lifelong president of the union.
The doodle was created by Maria Qamar, the Pakistani-Canadian artist and author of the book ‘Trust No Aunty’. “Anasuya’s dedication to justice and equality is something I can relate to,” said Qamar. She said her doodle was inspired by the Indian textile industry. “I portrayed delicate fabrics and traditional patterns found in our homes and our closets,” Qamar added.