Annette Akroyd

Annette Akroyd

Infobox Person
name = Annette Susannah Akroyd (Beveridge)

image_size =
caption =
birth_date = 1842
birth_place = Stourbridge, Worcestershire, England
death_date = 1929
death_place = London, England
occupation = Orientalist, reformer
spouse = Henry Beveridge

Annette Susannah Akroyd Beveridge (popular historically as Annette Akroyd) (1842–1929) was an English educationalist, social reformer and orientalist, is remembered primarily for her early efforts at women’s education in India. Her son William Beveridge was a noted British economist.cite web
url = | title = Beveridge, Annette Susannah Akroyd | accessdate = 2007-04-18 | last = Amin | first = Sonia | work = Banglapedia
publisher =Asiatic Society of Bangladesh

Early life

Born into an English business family she received the best possible education available to young women of her time. After studying at Bedford College, London, she took the decision to sail for India in order to advance the cause of women’s education. Prior to her visit, Mary Carpenter had visited India and Bethune had started his school but it was yet to attract students in a big way. Around the time she went to India, members of the Brahmo Samaj, who led the campaign for women’s emancipation and education, were sharply divided on what girls should be taught. The "progressive" section led by Sen was disinclined to educate women, whereas the women of the "conservative" Tagore family were highly accomplished. Her father had been a liberal Unitarian, who in 1849, supported the establishment of Bedford College, one of the earliest institutions providing higher education for women in England.Kopf, David, "The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind", 1979, pp. 34-39, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691031258]

Interest in India

Sometimes in the early 1860s she had met a Brahmo, Monomohun Ghose, in England, with whom she formed an abiding friendship. She thus had a fair idea of the social reform program of the Brahmo Samaj even before she met Sen or had decided to sail to India. Arriving in India in October 1872, she was the house guest of Ghosh and his wife. All sections of Brahmos welcomed her. While she was highly impressed by Ghosh and his wife (who were allied with the "conservative" faction), her meetings and discussions with Keshub Chunder Sen shocked her. Annette Akroyd felt that Sen, the rhetorician of women’s education in England was a typical Hindu MCP back home in India, trying to keep knowledge from the minds of women. On the other hand, Sen maintained that while he was progressive he wanted to “go slow” as he wanted to give women the inner strength with which to protect themselves. Sen had started a female and adult normal school on 1 February, 1871. The school supplied teachers to Bethune’s school and other schools later on. [Bagal, Jogesh Chandra, "History of the Bethune School and College (1849-1949)" in "Bethune College and School Centenary Volume", edited by Dr. Kalidas Nag, 1949, p33] Amongst those involved with Sen in the field of education only Umesh Chandra Dutta (who later split from Sen in 1878) appeared progressive to her. Others such as Bijoy Krishna Goswami, Aghore Nath Gupta and Gour Govinda Ray were traditionally Hindu in educational background.


Annette Akroyd’s school opened on 18 September, 1873 as the Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya (school for Hindu women), with Dwarkanath Ganguly as headmaster. Ananda Mohan Bose and Durga Mohan Das bore the expenses of the institution. [Sastri, Sivanath, "History of the Brahmo Samaj", 1911-12/1993, p. 164, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. ] Under Annette's strict supervision the school was run along western lines. She even taught the students how to use cutlery, something not in vogue in India (even in 21st century). Others involved in the school were Sivanath Sastri and Monomohun Ghosh.cite web
url =
title = Lessons in a Sari - Did women’s education in India change the way they dressed?
accessdate = 2007-04-18 | last = Karlekar | first = Malavika | work = | publisher = "The Telegraph", 4 February 2007

On 6 April, 1875, Annette Akroyd, quite disillusioned with her project, married Henry Beveridge, an ICS officer and an orientalist. It was at that juncture that Mary Carpenter came on her third visit to India. It saved Annette Akroyd’s school. It was established as the first women’s liberal arts college in India on 1 June, 1876, as Banga Mahila Vidyalaya (Bengali women’s college) by the progressive section of the Brahmos. On 1 August, 1878, this institution was merged with Bethune’s institution as Bethune College, and immediately it won the recognition and financial support of the Government.

Bethune’s school went through a rough time till the above amalgamation. Annette Akroyd’s attempt was at a higher English boarding school for girls, Among the students were Kadambini Basu, Sarala Das, Abala Das and Subarnaprava Basu. [ Acharya, Poromesh, "Education in Old Calcutta", in "Calcutta, the Living City", Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, pp86-87, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195636961]

Sen severely criticised the attempt to “Europeanise the girls”. He said that “to wear European costumes and to adopt European habits in eating and drinking” may be “progress in the estimation of some go-ahead reformers”, but “it is progress of a very doubtful character.” Sen wrote, “To Europeanise ourselves in our external habits and manners is one thing, and to regenerate ourselves is another thing.”cite web | url =
title = A Cross-Cultural Conflict Reexamined: Annette Akroyd and Keshub Chunder Sen
accessdate = 2007-04-18 | last = Scherer | first = M. A. | work = Journal of World History, vol. 7, no. 2 (Fall 1996) | publisher = University of Hawai’I Press

Once she was married and left the school, her husband warned her not to become too much identified with Anglicised Bengalis, and that included Monomohun Ghosh and his wife. Henry Beveridge said, “I have nothing to say against Mr. and Mrs. Ghosh, who were kind to me but I do not believe that they represent the best section of Young Bengal or that Bengal will eventually follow in the track they are going.”Oriental scholarship

She retreated from the feverish public activity into the life of a district judge's wife traveling all over both parts of Bengal and Bihar. She learnt Persian and Turkish languages and turned to the world of oriental scholarship, in which her husband was already adept. She is an acknowledged translator of oriental texts. Among these are Gulbadan Begum's "Humayunnama", and a fresh translation of "Baburnama" - works that are treated as masterly renditions.She was opposed to the Women's suffrage movement gaining ground in England at the time. She died in London in 1929. Her son Lord William Beveridge has written a masterly biography of his parents, "India Called Them" (1947).cite web | url = | title = Frozen Frames | accessdate = 2007-04-19 | last =Karlekar | first = Malavika | work = Spectrum | publisher = "The Tribune", 8 May 2005 ]


NAME= Akroyd, Annette Susannah
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Beveridge, Annette Susannah (married name)
SHORT DESCRIPTION= English orientalist, reformer
PLACE OF BIRTH= Stourbridge, Worcestershire, England
PLACE OF DEATH= London, England

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