Ramabai, Sarasvati Mary

Ramabai, Sarasvati Mary
(c. 185 8 - 1922 )
   Indian scholar, social reformer, and pioneer Pentecostalist
   Sarasvati Mary Ramabai was thoroughly educated in the Hindu scriptures (and English) by her father, a social reformer. Following her parents' death in the famine of 1877, she and her brother became wandering pilgrims. She frequently impressed Hindu scholars with her knowledge. Ramabai, a high-caste Brahmin, married a low-caste man in Calcutta, where she was baptized a Christian before her husband's premature death.
   In 1882, Ramabai presented the case for dispossessed women to the Hunter Commission, established to survey education in india. Her presentation made its way to Queen victoria, who responded by establishing several hospitals for women and financing the training of female physicians (a work already pioneered by Protestant missionaries). The next year, Ramabai and her young daughter visited England, where she was able to observe Christian social services among the poor. While there, she attended school and joined the Church of England. In 1886, she accepted an invitation from the Episcopal Church to visit the united States, where she founded the Ramabai Association to support her Indian work.
   once back in India, Ramabai opened a home for widows in Bombay. The Ramabai Association became a supporter of her work among widows, especially minors. Her vision of serving dispossessed women and children was perceived by many of her contemporaries as too radical, but she persevered. In the 1890s, she acquired land at Khedgaon, where she established the Mukti Sedan, a farm and self-sufficient ashram community for widows and children. From that base, she established several orphanages and a home for former prostitutes. Each facility became a Christian evangelism center.
   In 1905, before any word of Pentecostalism had reached India, Ramabai's followers experienced a similar phenomenon. At a prayer service of some 500 women preparing to evangelize the villages, several reported bodily sensations that were interpreted as a baptism of the Holy SpiRiT;a few were slain in the Spirit. The women became the center of a christian revival over the next several years. The christian community grew and offered even more community services, including a school that offered both academic and vocational training. Ramabai began work on a translation of the Bible into the local language, Marathi.
   The work begun by Ramabai continues to the present as the Ramabai Mukti Mission, which supports an orphanage, a set of schools for different ages, a hospital, and a home for the "unwanted." Mukti Church, formally organized in 1899, now meets in a building that accommodates 2,000 worshippers. in 1989, the indian government finally acknowledged Ramabai's work to raise the status and role of women in india by issuing a commemorative stamp with her likeness.
   Further reading:
   ■ Clementina Butler, Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati: Pioneer in the Movement for the Education of the Child-Widow of India (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1922)
   ■ Helen S. Dyer, Pandita Ramabai: The Story of Her Life (London: Morgan and Scott, 1907)
   ■ Mrs. Marcus B. Fuller, The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood, intro. by Pandita Ramabai (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1900)
   ■ Meera Kosambi, ed., Pandita Ramabai Through Her Own Words: Selected Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

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