Kerala is one of the states lying in the south-western part of India. One the most prominent features of the social history of 19th century Kerala was the revival of education among women. This revival is inseparably linked to the political, socio-economic and religious conditions that prevailed in Kerala at that time. A brief description therefore, of the conditions that prevailed before, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, will be useful for a better understanding of the context of educational reforms among women.
Keywords: missionary society, girls’ education, church missionaries, vernacular schools, child marriage, higher education, Travancore government, London missionary, Travancore district committee, East India Company
The Social Condition
Looking at the social background, one finds that the people of pre-Aryan Kerala were an assortment of different groups of Dravidian stock and pre-Dravidian races. In this pre-Aryan society caste and communal barriers were absent. The first five centuries of the Christian era are generally referred to as the Sangam age. There was a large measure of social freedom and equality during that period. Education was universal and was extended to all, irrespective of caste (Pillai: 1970, p. 267). Women enjoyed a high social status in the early Sangam age. They enjoyed complete freedom of movement as well as the right to education (Pillai: 1963, p. 122). Child marriage and seclusion of women were unknown during the period. Marriage was by mutual consent and a woman had the freedom to choose her husband.
The coming of the Aryans to South India brought about drastic changes in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. With the migration of the Aryans, the corner stone of the socio-economic structure became the temple which came up in different parts of the state. According to Kunjan Pillai (1963, p.124), ‘It was in ‘-the period from the 8th to the 11th centuries that Kerala was enclosed in the strait-jacket of the caste system.’
As the grip of caste system tightened, contempt grew towards the toiling classes. The gulf between the rich and the poor deepened. The working classes like the Ezhavas, the Nadars, the Parayas, the Pulayas, the Panas, the Vedas, the Kuravas and similar groups were deprived of their former high social status and came to be looked down upon as low castes. The condition of women became miserable after the introduction of caste system. Education was denied to women as in the case of untouchables 1970, p. 121).
When the caste system gathered force, it was accepted that the duty of the woman was to serve her husband and remain within the kitchen. Child marriage, deification of the husband, prohibition of widow remarriage and restrictions on the education of women were the fallouts of the caste system (Pillai: 1963, p . 121). The social condition of Kerala during the 18th and early 19th centuries can be easily understood by a study of the religious communities, the caste system and the social customs of Kerala during that period. In the beginning of the 19th century, the Kerala society was a predominantly Hindu one, organised on the basis of caste divisions. In Kerala the non-tribal Hindu population was divided into three clusters of castes, (a) savarnas or caste Hindus (b) avarnas, the non-caste Hindus and (c) the slave castes.
The Brahmins or the Namboodiris occupied the topmost position in the caste hierarchy. The Kings were for all practical purposes, dependent on the Namboodiris. Seclusion of women was very common among the Namboodiris. A Brahmin woman called `antarjanam’ or `akathamma’ was by and large confined within the house. According to their custom, women were not supposed to look at the face of a human being of a male sex except their husband’ (Logan: 1951, p. 27).
The Kshatriyas were the next in social hierarchy, and in Kerala, the most eminent among them was called Tamban. According to the traditional caste system, the next caste in order is the Vaisya. But Kerala did not have a separate Vaisya community. The Nairs form another major segment of Kerala population and held a position in caste status next to the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. They constitute the third and the last group among the caste-Hindus of Kerala.
The social life among the Nairs was in some measure unique. The women in this society enjoyed a large measure of liberty and mixed freely in public assemblies (Logan: 1951, p. 135). The Nair women did not lead a secluded life like the Namboodiri women. The hierarchy from Brahmins to Nairs constituted the caste-Hindus of Kerala called the savarnas. They had control over the land, the most important factor of production in 18th century agrarian Kerala.
In Kerala, a large section of the population was classified as the avarnas, or the non-caste Hindus. They constituted the working population of Kerala. Among them, the Ezhavas and the Nadars formed the upper strata. The Ezhavas are the greatest number in terms of population and make up about one fifth of the total population of Kerala. The Ezhavas were subjected to the state of degradation of oolium or forced labour and many vexations and restraints’ (Report of the Census of Native Cochin, p. 1877, p. 38).
The Nadars also had the same social status as that of the Ezhavas. From the time of Marthanda Varma, poll tax was levied upon these people. John Cox, one of the missionaries of Travancore wrote: ‘These men find their way into every corner seising the people’s goods and forcing them in the name of their government to labour without pay’ (LMS Report, 1841, p. 41).
The rest of the population except the slave class, comprised untouchables of varying ranks belonging to polluting castes (Saradamoni: 1981, p. 15). These out-caste people possessed little or no land. Artisans such as carpenters, goldsmiths, blacksmiths and other skilled workers engaged in cottage industries were generally paid higher wages than field labourers. Both the state and the aristocracy exploited these people.
The lowest in the order of the social pyramid was the slave castes, majority of these belonged to the Pulaya and Paraya communities. Of these, the Pulayas, considered the aborigines of Kerala, constituted the bulk of the population. Next to the Pulayas, the Parayas were the largest single slave caste. In social status, they were inferior to the Pulayas. Another caste, the Vettuvans (hunters) also belonged to the slave caste. There were many other slave castes besides them, who suffered slavery or other social disabilities of similar intensity.
Even in the 1850s, the price of a slave was on an average between six and ten rupees (Pillai: 1940, p. 57). In times of famine, children were sold at the rate of 4 `annas’ per head (The History of Freedom Movement in Kerala, 1970, p. 56). However to a slave it was a life-long bondage in service of the master. These labouring classes were labelled polluting castes and untouchables and they always lived in fear. They had to observe certain approved distances in their social dealings with the high-caste people. They were not allowed to walk on the public roads or to go to markets and temples where even animals might freely stray. An erring slave was meted out the most inhuman chastisement. ‘James Pegg (1832, p. 308) has observed: ‘Slaves appear occasionally to have their noses cut off by their cruel masters’. Another section of society that may be called the original inhabitants of Kerala was the Hill Tribes. They were numerous and divided into several distinct tribes. Their huts were erected on rocks or trees.
Caste had literally split up the Hindu society of Travancore into more than 420 (Mateer: 1883, p. 2) and that of India into more than 3000 (Luniya: 1975, p. 16) water-tight compartments. It fostered a spirit of exclusiveness and class pride, narrowed the outlook of the people and created a wide gulf between the various sections of the society. In the economic field also, the caste system undermined the efficiency of labour. Apart from this, it regulated the freedom of the individual. Moreover, it was a major factor hindering the intellectual and educational progress of vast sections of the people, including the women population. It reserved economic and intellectual opportunities to select sections of the population. It did not consider the woman as a human being who was as important as the man in the family, society and the nation. It obstructed the creation of a collective consciousness by organising the society in terms of a rigid hierarchy.
In the caste ridden society of 19th century Kerala, the status of women in the society varied from caste to caste. The important factors which subjugated the women of Kerala were social systems such as child marriage, sari, smartha, pulapedi, devadasi system, dowry system, as well as women’s mode of dress and some aspects relating to food habits.
One of the social evils which enslaved the women folk of Kerala and other parts of India was child marriage. Visscher, a Dutch missionary who was working at Cochin from 1717-1723, has pointed out that ‘They (Canarese Brahmins) give their daughters in marriage at the age of eight or nine years, for if they pass their tenth year unmarried they lose caste, and are not allowed to marry’ (Visscher: 1862, p. 111). Nair girls were married before seven or even five years old, while boys had to wait till they were sixteen, twenty or even older (Duois: 1906, p. 210-212). It was not uncommon that ‘an old man of sixty or more having lost his first wife, marry for the second time a child of five or six years old, and even prefer her to girls of mature age’ (Dubois: 1906, p. 212). Historians have pointed out that in 1891, in Travancore there were 26 child wives between the ages 0 and 4, 1125 between 5 and 9, and 13559 between 10 and 14 (Census of Travancore, 1894, p. 40). In Cochin it was 0.3 percentage between the ages 0 and 4, 1.6 between 5 and 9 and 14.8 between 10 and 14 (Report of the Census of Cochin, 1894, p. 76). This custom of child marriage arises ‘from the distrust of female virtues,’ observes Mateer (1883, p. 208). When the missionaries began their religious and social work they pointed out that ‘child marriage is one of the greatest hindrances to the welfare and education of women of India’ (India Female Evangelist, 1883, p. 153) and sought to correct the situation.
Sati was another cruel but widely followed Indian custom prevalent in Kerala as well. If a woman lost her husband she was obliged to put an end to her life by ascending the funeral pyre of her husband. This custom was known as ‘sahagamanam’ or going with her ‘lord’ or `sati’ (Ayyar: 1925 p. 92). In support of this practice it was said that ‘she accompanies her husband to the other world, dwells in heaven for three and a half cooler (35 million) years’. `She that goes with her husband to the other world purifies three generations .belonging to her mother’s side, father’s side and husband’s side; and so she, being reckoned the purest and best in fame among women, becomes too dear to her husband…’ (Peggs: 1832, p. 230).
In Kerala, this custom prevailed among the common people in the lirigdom of Malabar (Digby: 1823, p. 29). When a Brahmin woman became a widow she was not immolated or burnt. But she was prohibited from marrying second time and had to remain a widow till her death. Widow, who in the learned tongue was called `vidhava’, was held in much less respect than other women. When they happened to have no children, they were generally looked down upon with utmost scorn. Tonsuring the widow’s head was a visible sign of her social degradation (India Female Evangelists, 1890, p. 301). The very sight of a widow was believed to bring ill luck. She was prohibited from wearing jewels or beautiful clothes, eating tasty food, and intermingling happily with other people (Vanitha Kusumam, 1102 M.E. p. 191). According to the then prevalent belief, ‘the widow shall never exceed one meal a day, nor sleep on a bed; if she does so, her husband falls from swarga’ (Calcutta Review, 1867, p.48). At the same time, when a man became a widower he could marry more than once. Visscher (1862, p. 182) writes: ‘A widower may marry five times gut not more.’
Remarriage of widows was prohibited among some of the communities. the second decade of the 19th century out of 31 crores of population, there were a total of 2,64,21,261 widows in the whole of India of which 1064 were under 1 year, 17,703 were under 5, 1,11,973 were under 10 and 3,91,947 were under 15 years of age (Vanitha Kusumam, 1102 M.E. p. 191). Women of lower castes had the right, given to them by custom, to marry again, if widowed. Divorce was also permitted to the women of lower castes by custom.
Another social evil that prevailed in the society of Kerala was the ‘devadasi’ system. Devadasis were the dancing girls in the temples (Filial: 1970, ‘n02), regarded as the maid-servants of God. But in reality the devadasis were e temple prostitutes (The Missionary Review of the World, 1905, 314). Historians like Sreedhara Menon (1978, p. 224) have pointed out that the devadasi system began in Kerala at about the commencement of the Malayalam Era. After the 14th century the devadasi system degenerated to its worst. However the devadasis received the best possible education second to that of the Brahmins (Pillai: 1970, pp. 227-283). According to statistics there were 12,000 temple women in South India in 1906 (The Missionary Review of the World, 1906, p. 140).
Slavery prevailed in the society of Kerala. Apart from hereditary slavery, often it was enforced as a form of punishment. In Kerala women were exempted from the punishment of execution. Instead, women criminals were condemned to slavery. Day (1863, p. 62) a foreign traveller, observes: ‘Next to the punishment of death, that of slavery was the most severe. It was principally reserved for females’.
An evil custom which existed in Kerala that endangered even the higher castes and reduced them to slavery was ‘smartha’. When a Brahmin woman was suspected by her relatives or by her Brahmin neighbours of illegal sexual connections with men, the suspected woman had to face a severe process of trial before her excommunication from her caste. This was known as `smartha’ (Logan: 1951, p. 25). if the woman was found guilty, she was segregated and after a severe process excommunicated and driven from her family.
Women were degraded to slavery and deprived of their parental community in other ways also. For example, ‘A low caste woman allowing any improper intimacy with the Brahmin was sold to the Moplahs (Mahommedans)’ (Day: 1863, p. 62). A Namboodiri who was condemned to commit fornication with a `tiati’, a low caste woman, would be deprived of his eyes and the girl and her relations would either be put to death or sold as slaves to Muslims who sent them beyond the sea. At the same time ‘a Namboodiri does not lose caste on account of fornication with a sudra woman’ (Buchanan: 1807, p. 46).
Another custom which existed during this period which was a curse to women was ‘pulapedi’. During the months of February and March, if a Pulaya man met an unaccompanied Nair woman, he might seise her and she would lose her caste and connections with her relatives. This was known as `pulapedi’ and the season of pulapedi was known as `pulapedikalam’ , the period of pulaya terror (Menon: 1929, p. 274). If a Pulaya touched a Nair woman, even when unseen by others, she herself proclaimed it immediately. It was not necessary that there should be actual contact. It was enough if the person was hit by a stone or a stick. Though pulapedi was abolished by Unni Kerala Varma, the ruler of Venad in 871 M.E. (1696 AD), this social custom continued as a social evil even at the beginning of the 19th century.
A degrading system which still continues in the society of Kerala is the dowry system. Marriage among most Indians, irrespective of religious groups, is arranged by parents or relatives. In marriage, the payment of dowry was and is a determining factor in deciding the match. Rao (1957, p. 298) observes: `Taking caste by caste, it was once popular among the Brahmins and later it was adopted by all other non-Brahmin castes’. This system is an unbearable burden to parents and those who were not well-off financially found it hard to get partners for their daughters for want of money for dowry. However, it is interesting to note that the dowry system did not exist among the slave cases. `When a girl is born they say,’ wrote Premnath (1966, p. 94) ‘I got a present. She is not a burden or a curse to my house. She will grow and she will live by doing her job herself. He who\ is able to work will marry her, giving us, “Dakshina” ‘or “Kanam’ “.
Caste played an important role in the mode of dress of woman and the way a woman dressed signified her social position. Each caste had its own distinctive style of dress and ornaments.The Namboodiri women dressed in a peculiar style called `nerrinnu tukuka’ (Menon: 1919, p. 49). They did not wear the `ravukka’ of the half jacket. While walking outside the house, they covered themselves with a long piece of cloth leaving only the feet exposed. Sudra women commonly wore a large waist cloth and a thin muslin upper cloth over the shoulders and chest. The lower castes and slave-castes were forbidden to cover their bosoms with clothing. They went almost naked with only a few inches of cloth around the loins. Some of the low castes wore strings of glass .beads around the neck, reaching down to cover the breasts (Mateer: 1883, pp. 340-341).
The `kudu-kurumbars,’ one of the jungle tribes in Malabar hills, wore no clothes and a woman’s only covering was a few leaves sewn together and tied round the waist (Dubais, 1906. pp.20, 76). During one of his expeditions, Tipu, the last Sultan of Mysore, was shocked at the sight of this tribe, Malaikondigaru. Tipu asked the headman of the tribe why they and their women did not cover their bodies more properly. They said that it was because of extreme poverty and also because it was the custom of their caste. Tipu replied that he would provide them cotton cloth every year. However, they declined e offer, saying that if they were forced to wear clothes contrary to the rules of their caste they would be forced to leave the country (Dubois: 1906, p. 78).
Women belonging to castes below the rank of Brahmins, were required uncover the upper part of their bodies in the presence of persons of rank and sition as a way of salutation and this was taken as a mark of respect (Logan: 951, p. 128). If the women did not obey this custom, they were liable to be put death. A royal proclamation states thus: ‘The women who do not yield to the wishes of the man of the same or superior castes are immoral and should be put to death immediately’ (Pillai: 1963, p. 116). Gross a traveller in the 18th century, has recorded that when a woman who was living in a European centre for sometime came to the Rani of Attingal with her breasts covered, the Rani ordered that her breasts be cut off immediately.
The economic status of women in Kerala in the 18th century varied from caste to caste and from religion to religion. Wage earning right was denied to women in the upper class society, as women among them were not allowed to work outside the house. Among the slave and lower classes, men and women worked together for their master throughout the year (Dubois: 1906, p. 586). Though these women worked with men in the field, the wages were unequal and much lower for women (Mateer: 1883, p. 200). Before the 19th century, women who belonged to the lower sections were only unskilled labourers who mainly worked in the fields.
As the low castes and the slave castes were not permitted to own land, the women of these castes could not enjoy economic independence in this way. Among the upper classes, a Brahmin woman had no right to inherit property. But the Nair woman enjoyed the right to property and the right of inheritance. They followed the `marumakkathayaml system of inheritance. However, there was a general belief among the people that economic independence of women would lead to the spread of immorality among them (Gandhi: 1970, p. 96). These details point to the fact that the temporal and spiritual destiny of a woman in Kerala society was not in her hands but in the hands of the man. Manu (The Laws of Manu, 1967, p. 828) the Hindu law giver declared: ‘Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her son protects (her) in old age, a woman is never fit for independence’. When the caste system gathered force, it was accepted that the duty of the woman was to serve her husband and remain within the four walls of the kitchen. They had nothing to do except cook, look after the children and sleep. For these purposes it was deemed she required no education. Thus the woman who was a member of the savarna caste was a slave of the man and the woman who was a member of the avarna caste was a slave of the society.
The Early Educational System
The earliest known history of education in Kerala is reflected in the Sangam literature. During the Sangam period there was a high level of literacy. As there was a large measure of social freedom and equality, all the communities enjoyed full right to education. Female education was not neglected during this period. Women enjoyed a high social status in the early Sangam age. Owing to the high level of female literacy, the Sangam age produced many gifted poetesses.
Sanskritisation brought about radical changes in the educational system On Kerala in the medieval period. The Brahmins framed social laws in such a way as to make education the monopoly of the higher castes. People belonging to the lower castes were totally excluded from the purview of education. The ‘‘Social conditions did not provide for the education of women either. The most serious handicap of this system of education was that it catered only to the needs of a small section of society. In this period not even one percent of the ordinary people received education (Pillai: 1963, p,235).
Educational System that prevailed in Kerala in the 19th Century
At the beginning of the 19th century, education was not universal. As caste rules dictated all the aspects of life, education was also based on caste at that time. In the indigenous system of education in Kerala, two kinds of institutions could be distinguished: ‘mutts’ and ‘ezhuthupallies’. The former as exclusively meant for the Namboodiris and the latter for certain other castes. Higher education was intended for Brahmins only. In those days, higher education meant mostly religious instruction.
When the missionaries and the native governments began to lay the foundation of the modern system of education, the main agency for providing elementary education for the children of the ordinary people was ezhuthupallies or pial schools (Menon: 1978, p. 423). These ezhuthupallies were mainly centered round the village. In these schools the pupils were helped to acquire elementary knowledge of 3 Rs and accounts. The first step in such schools was to teach the pupils to write the alphabet on sand with the forefinger. The curriculum also included the learning of grammar, reading or reciting of the ‘Amarakosam’ the Sanskrit thesaurus, and other Sanskrit texts. Along with these, arithmetic tables as well as a few problems were also taught.
After undergoing a course of studies in the ezhuthupallies, the students were sent to the Kalari or military school in order to get training in gymnastics in the use of arms. Students who wanted to specialise in Ayurveda or Astronomy went to the respective specialists or professionals. The main defect this system of education was the exclusion of girls and low caste pupils.
The education of the people of Kerala in general or those of women in particular was not showing any signs of development at the dawn of the 19th century. As already mentioned, the social status of women had deteriorated considerably at the end of the 18th century. The society in general was prejudiced inst female education. Education was considered rather profane and immoral aristocratic ladies. There was a general belief that a girl taught to read and to would become a widow. As a result the `upanayana’ or the initiation to education ceremony came to be prescribed for boys only and the right to education was denied to women. According to Mateer, The denial of education to females springs to a great extent from the fear that they would misuse such advantages and become unfit for obedience and humble labour’ (1883, pp. 208-209).
But as pointed out earlier, there was a small section of women who had received education. They were the devadasis, the daughters of Nair tarawads and the Syrian Christian girls. Dubais (1906, p. 337) has observed: ‘Courtesans, whose business in life is to dance in the temples and at public ceremonies, and prostitutes are the only women who are allowed to learn to read, sing or dance. It was thought a disgrace to a respectable woman to learn to read; and even if she had learnt she would be ashamed to own it’. The next group of girls who received education was the girl children in Nair and Syrian Christian families. In their case, girls were admitted along with boys in the ezhuthupallies. The aim of girls’ education in these institutions was to give training in elementary moral instruction and also some basic lessons in music.
The period of learning was from five to seven years of age. The girls after the ‘tali’ tying ceremony that took place between 3 and 10 years of age did not attend schools. Formal higher education was denied to them. The main defect of this indigenous system of elementary schools was the exclusion of girls except a few Nair and Syrian Christian children. Another defect was that the children of both sexes of the lower castes, who formed the vast majority of population, were denied admission to these schools. The curriculum on the whole was inadequate and gave no knowledge about the world and had no relation to the needs and interests of the pupils.
Since most of the occupations were hereditary, vocational education in the modern sense was not needed. The training required in the household arts would have been provided by the elders in the home (Mateer, 1883, p. 210). As a consequence, the learning attained by a small number of girls was confined to the mastery of the alphabet and as they had no access to higher education or to social and religious avenues of education they could be presumed to have lapsed into illiteracy very soon.
Thus it can be seen that in the beginning of the 19th century there existed a kind of village education which was exclusively meant for high caste boys and a very small section of the middle class girls including the devadasis. Except an extremely small number of women who received some rudimentary education either at home or in schools, almost the whole of the female population of the state was deprived of formal education. It `was against this background that the missionaries launched a new initiative of providing education irrespective of caste or sex.
The Political Condition
The political situation of a state is determined by its internal affairs as well as its external relationships. During the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, external relationships were very significant in determining the political fortunes in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. Although many foreign powers had frequented the coasts of Kerala even before the time of Jesus Christ, the arrival of the British in the 16th century changed the course of the history of this land. Though the English had some early connections with Travancore, formal relations between the state of Travancore and the English East India Company began with the treaty of 1723 (Logan: 1951, p. xx).
The Mysorean invasions helped the English East India Company to crease its political supremacy over Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. During Tipu’s invasion, the Zamorin of Calicut and all the other Malabar chieftains declared their allegiance to the English (Logan: 1951, pp. 466-67). The Raja of chin entered into a treaty of perpetual friendship and protection with the English in 1791. By the treaty of Seringapatnam of 1792, the whole of Malabar, Cochin and Coorg were ceded to the British by the Sultan of Mysore. Thus in 792 Malabar became one of the provinces of the Madras Presidency under e English East India Company.
In 1795 Travancore also joined the subsidiary alliance of the English by which the company was engaged to protect Travancore from all foreign invasions alive States, 1875, pp. 3-4). According to another treaty, signed in January 800, Cohn Macaulay came to Travancore as Political Resident and imperial agent of the British. The Travancore war of 1809 and the internal disputes on issue of succession paved the way for the company to enter into the internal administration of Travancore.
In October 1810 John Munroe came to Travancore as the British Resident. The situation in Travancore at that time forced the Rani to request Munroe to take up the Dewanship and thus the Resident became the Dewar’ of Travancore (Yesudas: 1977, pp. 10-13). By 1811 virtually the entire administration of Travancore was in the hands of the Resident. From this time wards, the Resident played a very important role in the administration in Travancore, increasingly responsive to the demands of the people’ (Sherring: 34 p.2). This had far reaching consequences in every aspect of public inistration, including the field of education.
When Macaulay became the Resident in Cochin in 1800. the relations between the Resident and the Raja deteriorated considerably (Menon: 1911, p. 135). The control of the Cochin state was transferred to the British Resident in April 1809. Munroe was appointed the Dewan of Cochin in 1812 (Dairies, 1923, p.40). The reforms introduced by him in Cochin bore a close resemblance to those he introduced in Travancore.
The beginning of the work of the Protestant Christian Missionaries in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar was closely connected with the expansion of the British supremacy over these states. Macaulay and Munroe were strong supporters of missionary work (Parker:n.d., p. 4). It was during the dewanship of Munroe that Christianity received the maximum support and encouragement from the political authorities (Yesudas: 1977, p. 23). Under favourable political circumstances, the Christian missionaries introduced modern systems of education in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. They were the pioneers not only in popularising education among the general public but also in the spread of education among girls in these areas.
In fact, the direct intervention of the State in the field of education had its beginning in 1817 when Rani Goufi Parvathi Bai with the assistance of Dewar, Col. Munroe introduced a system of free and compulsory primary education under state control (Neetu: 992 M.E.). In Cochin, it had its beginning in 1818 (Menon: 1878, p. 285). Though the local governments accepted the responsibility of education in 1817 and 1818 in Travancore and Cochin respectively, they were not able to extend the benefits of education to the women till the latter part of the century (Pillai: 1940, p. 692).
The London Missionary Society and its Educational Endeavours in South Travancore
The Protestant Missionary Societies which were working in different parts of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar were the offspring of the evangelical revival in Europe and America, in the last quarter of the 18th century. At the dawn of the 19th century, several missionary societies were established. The Baptist Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society, the Methodist Missionary Society, the Foreign Missions, the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society and the Committee for Foreign Missions of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland were some of them.
The London Missionary Society was the first Protestant Missionary Society which sent Missionaries to Kerala. It was formed in England on 21st September, 1795 as a non-denominational missionary society, with the ‘sole object as to spread the knowledge of Christ among heathens’ (Horne: 1894, p.10). By the term ‘heathens’ they meant non-Christians.
In October 1810 John Munro was appointed as Resident to succeed Macaulay. Munro gained absolute control over Travancore and Cochin. He was very keen on promoting the work of the Christian missionaries. On the one hand he shared the view of the evangelicals of that period that Christianity would help the progress of the people. On the other, he believed that the religion would stabilise and consolidate the British political power in India. Therefore said: ‘The diffusion of Christianity in India is a measure equally important the interests of humanity and to the stability of our power’ (The Missionary Register 1816. p. 454). In 1813 when the Charter of the English East India Company was revised, official sanction was given to British Missionaries to do missionary work (Cherian: 1935, p. 85). This gave added encouragement to policy of Munro to support the missionaries. Thus the establishment of fish supremacy and the appointment of Residents as the British agents in Travancore and Cochin provided a favourable situation for the missionaries to k in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar.
The first missionary of the LMS in South Travancore was William Tobias Ringeltaube„ a German Lutheran Missionary who came to South Travancore 25 April 1806 (Robinson: 1908, pp. 78-79). Ringeltaube was given mission to reside in Travancore and do missionary work. He was also given mission to build churches in Travancore. During his first visit, Ringeltaube involved to involve himself in promoting education. In September 1806, he made the following request to a friend in London, ‘…if possible obtain the sum 100 pounds for me towards building a church in Travancore and erecting a small building for a seminary’ (Lovett:1899, p. 20). Here ‘seminary’ does not mean a theological institution, but a school which is intended to impart education higher level. He opened an English School at Mylandy in 1809, which was first English School in Kerala for popular education. From the very beginning he started schools wherever he formed new congregations and admitted pupils out caste or religious discrimination. Within a short period of his missionary endeavour, Ringeltaube laid the foundation of English education in Travancore. The statistics for the year 1815 shows that there were 188 students in 6 schools (Agur: 1903, p. 622). But he was not able to start a school for girls. He lamented: ‘Girls never come to school in Travancore which is a great loss’ (Hacker: 1908 p. 31).
Johanna Mead and Martha Mault – The Pioneer Missionaries of Girls’ Education in Kerala
Johanna Mead (Mrs. Mead) was one of the pioneer missionaries in the of women’s education in Kerala. She was the wife of Charles Mead, the second missionary to come to Travancore. Charles Mead reached South Travancore in 1817. By his energy, enthusiasm and imagination, he was able to reshape the entire educational system of this state. In October 1819 Mead open a seminary at Nagercoil. At the same time Johanna Mead began her work for women by starting a school for girls in Nagercoil. This was the first girls’ school in Kerala marking the beginning of a systematic attempt in the field of female education in Kerala (Hacker: 1908, p. 35). It marked a new era by opening the portals of education to the hitherto neglected women of this region.
Johanna Mead started a boarding school at Nagercoil along with the girls’ school, which again was the first of its kind in Travancore. In the beginning, the missionaries found it very difficult to find girls to join these institutions. All the girls who joined the school were accommodated in the boarding home and were provided with free food and clothing (Hacker: 1908, p. 82). The work which was initiated by Johanna Mead became a movement when Martha Malik, (Mrs. Mault) joined in the task. Martha was the wife of Charles Mault who arrived in Nagercoil in 1819.
Martha Mault and Johanna Mead wanted to improve the status of women, by imparting education to them. These missionaries thought that the subject of female education was of great importance to the future of India (TDC Minutes 1864, p. 18). But in the beginning parents were quite unwilling to send their girls to school. It is said that so great was the prejudice of the parents that girls, who were admitted one week were withdrawn the very next week (LMS Report 1825, p. 90). In the early years all the girls admitted were children of Christian parents. Among the first batch of pupils, about one-third of the girls were slaves. There was no strict age limit to admit a child in any of the classes. The missionaries had definite aims in starting girls’ schools. When the Christian missionaries began their work in India, they realised that ‘no stable and certainly no Christian community could be built up under conditions when women were incompetent to teach the young. It was of first importance that women should be able to read the Bible and give reasons for the faith they had (O’Malley: 1968, pp. 462-463).
The missionaries also found that education was one of the means to raise women from their low status in society. Therefore when Johanna Mead started the first girls’ school, her primary object was ‘to impart a plain education, united with religious instruction’ (Letter, Mrs. Mault to Foreign Secretary, 1830). In their goal to educate women, the Missionaries were motivated by both’ humanitarian and religious concerns.
Expansion of Girls’ Education in South Travancore 1819 – 1837
The remarkable growth of congregations during the early part of the 19th century contributed to the spread of girls’ education in different parts of South Travancore. Wherever the missionaries started churches, schools were opened and in many places educational facilities were extended to girls also. In the year 1819, when the congregation was increased to 10, the number of schools was increased to 12 (Letter, Knill to Burder, 1819). In these schools missionaries admitted both boys and girls but the number of girls who attended these schools was very small. Martha Mault remarked: ‘The number all at present and has to struggle with great opposition as the dreadful custom prevails all over India to teach the female nothing’ (Letter of Mrs. Mault, 1820). In order to change public opinion in favour of female education, they fished several articles. In 1831, they published a pamphlet in Tamil entitled the Advantages of Female Education’.
In 1820, the lady missionaries opened a boarding school for girls as an experiment, amidst great opposition from the savarnas (Letter of Charles Mault John Smith, EMMC, 1821, p.86). About the necessity of the boarding schools, one of the missionaries observed: ‘The Mission Boarding School is evidently a necessity in the present stage of Christian Life in India, in order children of Christian people may be for a time so separated from the associations and influences of the life around them’ (Letter, R.W. Thompson to W.D. Osborne, 1900). Another aim was that if the children were boarded and clothed they could retain them and avoid dropouts to some extent.
The establishment of separate schools for girls was another important experiment in this field. This was a blessing to the slave girls. The missionaries desired to give the slave girls self-help and education. The measures taken by the missionaries helped the slave girls to secure freedom from their masters. However, the privileged classes became jealous of the benefits the slaves enjoyed field of education and began to oppose the activities of the missionaries (Letter, Mrs. Mault to a Friend, EMMC, 1831, p. 32).
The missionaries also attempted to popularise girls’ education by conducting schools outside the mission compound. In 1822 they established the Bazaar School outside the mission compound. To attract more non-Christian girls, lady teachers were appointed in the schools. These experiments proved successful and gradually a large number of girls sought admission in these (Letter, Mrs. Mault to Foreign Secretary, EMMC, 1830, p. 540).
After the mission was established in Nagercoil, the missionaries extended their work to other important centres in South Travancore. They opened mission centres in Trivandrum (1821), Quilon (1821), Parassala (1838), Vakkom (1895 and Attingal (1900). In 1827 the Nagercoil Mission was divided into the Western and Eastern missions. The Eastern division or Nagercoil was under the supervision of Mault and the Western division or Neyyoor was under the supervision of Mead.
The mission at Nagercoil was expanded to Thamarakulam, Muhilangudy Agasteeswaram, Puttalam, Kottar, Parakai, Puthugramam, Koilvilai, Atticad Picheykudiyiruppu, and Vadakkankulam (Jacob: 1990, p. 67). In all these place they started schools for boys and girls. Thus, in 1821 there were 15 schools in Nagercoil alone (LMS Report, 1821, p. 62). However there was no significant increase in the total number of girls sent to schools. Even in 1824, the number of girls under instruction was only 14.
The mission at Neyyoor was expanded to many places under Charles Mead and William Miller after 1828. They established churches in Kotanavilai Devikodu, Patnam, Matikodu, Peyakuly, Etavilai, Eraniel, Eathamoly Ananthavadankudiyiruppu, Tittuvilai and Kallian Kadu (Jacob: 1990, p. 67) The missionaries started mixed schools, girls’ schools and boarding schools in most of these places.
In 1821, the missionaries started a school in Trivandrum. The location of this school is supposed to be at Valiathurai (LMS Report, 1821, p. 13) According to the Annual Report of the LMS for the year 1824 (pp. 9-10 Kannanthurai, Neyyattinkarai, Vallavankodu, Karangkulam and Kuzhithurai were some of the stations in Trivandrum. They opened schools in most of these places. The missionaries remarked: An English Girls’ School is much required here, many Brahmins and others of caste being desirous of learning English’ (LMS Report, 1825, p. 104).
The first missionary to reach Quilon was John Smith. He started hi work there by opening schools. Churches were established only much lat The British resident wholeheartedly supported his educational enterprises Important stations in Quilon were Quilon Mission Compound, Bazaa Kykullam, Mulangadavattu, Cadavur, Moonakil, Killialoor, Paroor an Thattamely (LMS Report, 1825, p. 109).
By 1825, in almost every mission centre a few girls were and instruction. In 1825 the number of students attending different schools other than the Trivandrum centre was 1422, of which 42 were girls. In the year 183 there were 97 schools and 3,100 students attending the classes all over their centres (Sherring: 1884, p. 304). New congregations and schools were form in several villages such as Mandaicaud, Kottanavilai, Tiruvithamcode, Kannodu, Puthur, Seynamvilai, Pallaidy, Killayur, Amsi, Mathicode, Vadakankara and Ethavilai. Seven more girls’ schools were opened in 1837 (MMEC, p. 1837).
New Era in Girls’ Education: 1838 – 1893
The new era of progress of schools and scholars commenced in 1838 when Charles Mead returned from furlough with 5 more missionaries and their wives to reinforce the work in Travancore. The new missionaries were John Cox, Pattison, Abbs, James Russel and Ramsay. They together with their wives laboured much for the spread of girls’ education in the state of Kerala.
John Cox was appointed to the mission at Trivandrum in 1838. Mrs. Cox established a boarding school with 5 girls. This was the first girls’ school of the LMS missionaries in Trivandrum. By 1840 the number of students in South Travancore attending schools had increased to 7,540 of which 1,000 were girls (Sherring: 1884, p. 304). In 1842 there were 14 schools for boys and for girls in Trivandrum alone. In the girls’ boarding school there were 17 girls that year (Jacob: 1990. p. 111). In the Trivandrum centre more schools were opened in different places. In 1845 there were 15 village schools of which 12 were boys’ and 3 were girls’ schools (Letter, John Cox to Tidman & Freeman, 845). Mixed schools and girls’ schools were opened in Nellikakuzhi. Karichal, attuvila, Parreneyum (Letter, John Cox to Tillman and Freeman, 1845). By 852 there were 22 village schools of which 14 were boys’ and 8 were girls’ hools (Report of Cox, 1851).
As a result of the encouragement given by Charles Mead, The Lady’s Society for the promotion of Female Education in the East started a school in Trivandrum city in 1858. This school was chiefly intended for Christians (Agur: 903, p. 770). The school was under the charge of Mrs. D’ Veigas and supervised y Charles Mead, who was then the first Superintendent of the Government District Schools. This school was upgraded in 1888, and in 1897 it was raised a Second Grade College for Women (Agur: 1903, p. 770). In 1884, Samuel steer opened a girls’ school at Karamana (MMEC, 1884, p. 222). In 1885 other school was opened in the mission compound at Trivandrum. Thus this period witnessed the rapid growth of girls’ education in Trivandrum district.
After 1838 the number of schools and scholars increased in Nagercoil and Neyoor. New churches and schools were established in Achankulam, Malayanvilai, Santhiady, Kundal, Ottialvilai, Kannangulam, Anchugramam, Alagappapuram, Pichaikudiyiruppu, Kanagappapuram, Koodangulam, Pannai, Vadakkangulam, Yacobpuram, Avarakulam, Panakudi, Radhapuram and Aramboly in Nagercoil District (Jacob: 1990, pp. 90-91). The boarding schools Nagercoil and Neyyoor progressed well and in these schools day-scholars were admitted along with boarders. The first Girls’ Boarding School was then known as the ‘Carlton School’. During that period it also functioned as a kind of training school which provided female teachers.
A girls’ boarding school was started by Mrs. Russel in the head station. Santhapuram and James town were the two other centres for girls’ education (Jacob: 1990, p. 94). In 1857, in the two districts of Nagercoil and Neyyoor, the total number of scholars increased to 7,540 of which 998 were girls. Within the next two years the total number of girls increased to 1468 (Agur: 1903, pp. 769-770).
After opening a new station at Parassala in 1838, John Abbs and his wife worked hard to establish churches and schools. Ashton and his wife helped Abbs for some time in supervising the village schools. According to the statistics of 1845 there were 55 stations, 41 village schools and 1183 scholars (LMS Report, 1845, p. 46). In 1867, 611 boys and 158 girls were able to read. The number of schools increased to 74 with 3267 scholars and 97 teachers in 1890 (LMS Report: 1890. p. 102).
In 1838 Pattison joined Thompson at Quilon to supervise the schools and boarding schools there. Evening schools were established in villages in 1848 (Jacob: 1990, p. 113). According to the statistics given in the Report of the South India Missionary Conference held at Ootacamund from April 19 -May 5, 1858, there were a few village schools in Quilon with 160 boys and 26 girls.
The period from 1859 to 1866 was one of marvelous increase in church membership all over South Travancore. This resulted in the need for more educational institutions. The statistics of 1865 shows that there were 47 schools for girls which included 6 boarding schools spread all over South Travancore (Hacker: 1908, p. 55).
Meanwhile the Travancore Government opened some schools with the co-operation of the LMS Missionaries. But the lower classes were not permitted to attend the government schools and mix with the privileged classes till the last decade of the 19th century (Mateer: 1872, p. 228). ‘When there was pressure from the people to open schools for all castes, the government proposed in 1865 to establish separate schools for the children of the Shanars and those of similar castes so that they do not mix freely with the Sudras’ (Letter. F. Baylis to T. Madhava Rao, 1865). To the missionaries this was a policy detrimental to their efforts. They opposed this government policy and requested the government, to open cosmopolitan institutions (Letter, John Lowe to T. Madhava Rao, 1865). But this proposal of the missionaries did not receive sufficient and immediate attention from the government.
When the financial position became stringent, the missionaries requested e government for a grant-in-aid (Indian Evangelical Review, 1874, p. 376). Accordingly in 1875 the Travancore Government provided a sum of Rs. 15000 grant in-aid to schools which were not under direct government supervision. This grant was intended to aid elementary education in the vernacular schools. This help was a blessing to the educational institutions of the LMS missionaries.
The period after 1880 was a time of consolidation and progress of education in South Travancore. More missionaries arrived. The leading missionaries during this period were Duthie and Allan in Nagercoil, Hacker in Neyyoor, James Emlyn, Knowles and Foster in Parassala and Mateer in Trivandrum. One feature of their activities in the following years was that the Board of Directors and the District Committee gave more importance to men’s work (MMEC, 1905).
Duthie and his wife began their work in 1856 and worked hard for the progress of women’s education. In 1879 a few new schools were opened at the Nagercoil centre (J.Duthie, TDC, 1879). According to the Annual Report of LMS for the year 1891 (p. 133) five girls’ schools were opened for the education of 293 girls. The Caste Girls’ School at Vadassery and the Caste Girls’ School at Krishnancoil were two of them.
Another important development in Nagercoil was the bifurcation of the Christian Girls’ School. This school was divided into two sections; one being an English Girls’ School. The missionaries believed that ‘it will prove to be of great advantage to those whose circumstances permit them to remain at School it their 17th and 18th year’ (LMS Report, 1891, p. 133). During these years, there were six girls’ schools under the care of Mrs. Duthie alone (LMS Report, 2, p. 144).
Five more missionaries arrived as a result of the LMS Forward Movement 1892. They were Wills, Gillies, Dennison, Miss Kate Derry ad Miss Maedonnell who worked in different parts of south Travancore. They started vernacular schools in many places in and around Neyoor. In Neyyoor alone were 74 vernacular schools with a total attendance of 3,161 students. More than half of them were non-Christians.
A new station was opened in Vakkom in 1895. Osborne and his wife lied very hard to establish churches and schools there (MMEC, 1895, p.278). Churches and schools were established at Attingal, Malavila, Vembayam, Chatanoor, Panyoor, Nadayara, Pallodu, Kadakavoor, Anjengo and Nedungolam (Jacob: 1990, p. 183). Appeals were also made by the inhabitants of Karitholam, Vamanapuram, Vellaloor, Karmoor, Kilimanoor and Poovanka to start schools for them. But owing to financial difficulties, the missionaries could not start their schools in all these places (MMEC, 1895, p. 278). In 1902 there were two Anglo-vernacular schools in Neyyoor – one for boys and another one for girls.
The missionaries felt that they had done very little to the development of female education in Quilon. The Board thought that Quilon had to be strengthened by a resident missionary and asked Knowles to move to Quilon (Letter, Whitehouse to Knowles, 1883). After that a girls’ boarding school was started in the early 1880s with ten scholars (LMS Report, 1893, pp. 29-30). Female education at Parassala progressed under the supervision of Mrs. Knowles who arrived at Parassala with her husband in 1880. Thus new girls’ schools were opened at Amaravilai, Kaliakavilai and Marthandam (LMS Report, 1896, p. 112).
Turning Point in Women’s Education — 1894 Onwards
In 1894, a new grant-in-aid code was introduced by the Government to change the educational pattern of the State and the whole educational system was brought under one authority (TDC Minutes, 1889-1897, p. 280). The regulations of the new code prevented the missionaries from using Christian text books, and making their schools a medium for evangelical work. The code also disqualified a good number of teachers and insisted upon better school buildings, more school furniture and a higher average attendance. The teachers were required to pass government examination to qualify themselves as teachers. Grants were refused to those schools which had not satisfied the provisions o the code (Travancore Administration Report, 1897, pp. 10-12).
This reform severely affected the educational work of the missionaries. Therefore they wrote to the Travancore Government: ‘We are quite willing to help in teaching the people of the country, and will gladly accept any grants you may give us, provided you will not interfere with our liberty to govern our schools as we wish and teach what books we please. We will satisfy you as to the thoroughness of the secular instruction we impart, and you can test it by your own officers’ (Harvest Field, 1893, p. 597). However the Government did not concede to the request and this led to the closing of a number of schools under the LMS.
In 1904 the Government of Travancore went a step further and declared that the ‘government are fully alive to their responsibility in the matter of primary education, and their aim will be seen that no child in the State between the age of five and ten, whatever his caste and station in life, is allowed to grow up -a without the benefits of education’ (Travancore Government Gazette, 1904, p, 180).
This order of the government regarding free education to the backward classes impressed the missionaries (Harvest. Field, 1904, p. 399). When the government actively entered the field of education, the aim of the missionaries to educate girls and the downtrodden was achieved, and they desired to withdraw their active efforts from the field. They believed: The introduction of the Travancore Government of the New Educational Code marks a new stage in the development of education in this country’ (LMS Minute Book 1897-1909, p. 280). Therefore the missionaries resolved; ‘We cannot therefore be the sole managers, superintendents and responsible individuals to the Government for The upkeep and maintenance of each and all the schools in our districts, because Government is working upon one principle and we on another, and the result is and will be much friction about details with minor Government officials, besides the loss of time which might be spent with more profit in other directions’ LMS Minute Book 1897-1909, p. 280). This led the missionaries to concentrate their attention on the spread of Christian religion adopting other means. But at the same time they continued to involve themselves in the educational activities of South Travancore.
Progress of Women’s Education after 1900
After 1900, the number of schools in Trivandrum increased considerably. Quilon, the missionaries were able to open 3 more schools (Hacker: 1908, p. 82). In 1902 the total number of schools there was 37, of which 11 were night schools. In these schools, there were 1403 scholars of which 1,073 were boys and 330 girls (LMS Report, 1902, p. 205). In 1902, in Neyyoor there were two Anglo Vernacular schools, one for boys and another one for girls (LMS Report, 1902, p. 199). Having considered the urgent needs of the Parassala district, a lady missionary was appointed to develop educational work among girls (Letter: R.W. Thompson to H.T. Wills, 1908). New schools were started in Amaravila Venganoor, also. In Nagercoil the number of pupils increased in the Duthie Vernacular schools. In 1918 there were 500 girls, mostly children of Christians MEC, 1918, p. 212). Miss Harris, the educational missionary in Nagercoil has stated that in this school, there were twenty high caste girls. This proved that caste prejudice was being overcome gradually. This was an important development in the history of women’s education in Kerala.
One of the special features of the 1930s was the progress of the vernacular middle schools for boys and girls (R. Sinclair, Replies to Questions, Z 3364). During the time of Sinclair (1921-30), a missionary, the number of Day School in Neyyoor increased from 57 to 71. Another significant feature was that the Board and the Travancore District Committee gave more importance to women’ work and spent more money for that (MMEC, 1935). In the appointment teachers for girls’ schools, the missionaries paid particular attention to selecting qualified teachers. In 1933, it was found that the girls’ boarding schools were, managed mainly by trained teachers (Minutes, Meeting in Britain and Ireland, 1933).
Another notable activity was the starting of hostels for girls. Mrs. Allan worked hard to provide ‘a new hostel for the Christian Girls’ School by patient and judicious saving of funds gained by the lace industry in Nagercoil’ (Letter, R.W. Thompson to A. Parker, p. 1901). In Trivandrum the missionaries started a hostel for the benefit of girls. This hostel was in a flourishing condition during the year 1917 (Letter, Lenwood to Arthur Parker, 1917). Another change observed in the later period was that a boy or a girl who passed the seventh class expected a job as a result of the progress of education. Sinclair observed: The benefit of this is everywhere apparent, but we have come to a point where the limitations of that work are equally apparent. Practically every boy and girl as well as their parents expect that on passing the seventh class, teacher’s work will be provided and this restricted outlook spells disappointment to scores of boys and girls’ (R. Sinclair, Replies to Questions, Z 3364). As a remedy for unemployment, Sinclair tried to introduce rural training among boys and girls. A lady was to be appointed in Marthandom where there was land and scope for rural training (R. Sinclair, Replies to Questions, Z 3364).
The missionaries tried to maintain the existing schools including girls’ schools. For a long time most of the schools in villages had only one or two classes. The Travancore Government set up an Education Reforms Committee known as ‘Statham Committee’ in 1932. This committee proposed that grant-in-aid should be given by the Government only to complete primary schools consisting of five classes, and which were centrally situated. As a result the LMS was compelled to abolish many schools. An Education Board was set up by the missionaries in 1934. It accepted the policy of the Government to create centrally situated complete primary schools with five classes. It also chose to open middle schools in some centres where English would be taught for three years out of the total of eight years’ tuition.
Boys and girls who passed from the complete primary schools could join the middle school classes. In some places, the middle school was attached to the primary school, so that boys and girls who spent 8 years in the primary and middle schools could spend 3 more years in the high school and complete the Secondary School Leaving Certificate course. There were 10 middle schools in the southern district and 5 in the central district. This system of primary, middle and secondary school education helped the growth of girls’ education considerably.
As many schools were abolished and some surrendered to the Government as a result of the new regulations, the number of schools was reduced considerably. In 1934 there remained 236 schools under the LMS. In these schools there were 907 teachers of whom 211 were lady teachers (Minutes of the Executive, 1939, pp. 42-43).
In 1945, the Travancore Government decided to recast primary education throughout the state and bring it more fully within its own authority. At that time there were 3,160 aided private schools and 883 government schools, and the private schools 89 percent were under Christian management (Goodall: 954, p. 477). This committee proposed a uniform system of free and compulsory education for all children between the age of five and nine, and recommended the continuance of private schools within the system on a grant–aid basis (Goodall: 1954, p. 477).
The Executive Committee of the Travancore Church Council resolved to hand over to the Government as many as possible of the schools, under the same conditions as in the case of the schools already given’ (TDC Report: 46, p. 29). In 1946, 45 schools were surrendered. According to the TDC port of the Board of the year 1947-48 (pp. 14-45) the number of scholars in remaining LMS schools was 36,305, of whom 15,629 were girls and 20,676 boys. All the primary schools in Thovala, Agasteeswaram, Nagercoil Municipality, and Trivandrum town were surrendered on lease for 12 years (Primary Education Act, 1121, M.E.).
The process of transferring the primary schools to the government which began in 1946, continued up to 1948. In these three years LMS missionaries handed over or closed 158 schools and leased 120 buildings to the Government (Jacob: 1990, p. 221).
The Travancore District Committee of South Travancore desired to establish a Christian College at Nagercoil for the higher education of the Christian youth. So a college was established at Nagercoil and it was named Christian College. Classes commenced in 1893 in the Scott Christian College with 9 students. Though girls were not admitted in the beginning, it was a blessing to them later. In 1939 there were 200 students in this college of whom, 20 were women (MMEC, 1939, p. 44).
The close of the 19th century witnessed rapid progression in girls’ education all over south Travancore. People demanded higher education facilities for their daughters. Even though LMS faced financial problems, it sought various ways of meeting this demand. Particular consideration was given to the admission of women in all the Christian Colleges for men (Minutes, Higher Education, 1937, p. 3). But the people were not satisfied with this. They demanded separate colleges for women. Owing to the financial difficulties, the missionaries could not start a college for women. Most of the missionary societies who were working in India came together to discuss this matter and decided to start Union Christian Colleges. The Board of Directors was also in favour of this (MMEC, 1927, p. 87). They supported the plan for a Joint Committee to raise funds from British Educationalists for meeting the needs of the colleges in India (MMEC, 1926, p. 97). As a result, several Union Christian Colleges were opened in Asia. The Women’s Christian College of Madras is the best evidence of the missionaries’ efforts in this direction. Many women from Travancore, Cochin and Malabar received higher education there.
The year 1918 marked the establishment of another training centre for women – the Missionary Medical College for Women, Vellore, under Ida Scudder of the American Arcot Mission. This quickly became a Union institution receiving the co-operation of a large number of British and American Societies and a grant-in-aid from the Madras Government. LMS was a financial partner in this college also. Men were admitted along with women students in 1945 (Goodall : 1954, p. 521). In South India another outstanding instance of co-operation in women’s training was the establishment of the St. Christopher’s Training College, Madras in 1923. Students from all the LMS areas in the south, including Travancore, were sent to this institution (Goodall : 1954, p. 495).
These colleges were a great blessing to the women of Kerala as they enhanced the status of women in society. Statistics reveal that in those days only a few women studied in colleges as compared to men. Of these a large number took history as their optional subject, due to the non-availability of seats in the science subjects.
Some missionaries thought that imparting education in general with vocational education would improve the condition of the people. Martha Mault and Johanna Mead combined class room teaching and vocational training. Girls were taught reading and writing in the morning and spinning cotton, knitting, sewing and embroidery in the afternoon (Letter of Mrs. Mault, 1821). In 1820, lace industry was started in the Girls’ Boarding School at Nagercoil. In 1830 the profit from the lace industry and the subscriptions from England were used to support 22 girls and another 60 children (Letter, Mrs. Mault to Foreign Secretary, 1830).
The lace industry provided employment to many and prevented them m going back to their traditional professions. This industry was also an instrument in enhancing the status of women because it provided a means of livelihood to many women in south Travancore. By the end of the very decade its introduction, the lace industry became famous in India and abroad. The ‘South Travancore Lace’ had won many prises in exhibitions including those held at Madras, London, Paris and Chicago (Agur: 1903. p. 767). The lace industry continues even today as a cottage industry.
The Church Missionary Society and its Educational Endeavours in Travancore and Cochin
The Church Missionary Society was started in England to evangelise non-Christians. The first batch of the CMS missionaries was sent to India e beginning of the year 1814. Munro who became the British Resident 10-1819) in Travancore and Cochin was mainly responsible for the commencement of the work of the Church Missionary Society in Travancore. In his opinion, ‘An efficient and extended system of education particularly in English language, will contribute more effectually than any other plan to early and substantial advancement of the Protestant Religion in India’ (Letter, Munro, to M. Thompson, 1815). Thus, under the powerful patronage and co-operation of Munro, the Church Missionary Society commenced their work here.
Like other missionary societies, proselytisation was the main aim of the CMS Missionaries. To attain that object they wanted to educate the people. And for this, they established schools. They declared: ‘The chief object as yet tried by the establishment of schools at our stations, is the preparing of a reading population…’ (The Missionary Register, 1933, p. 65). The Missionaries thought that ‘while the women who determine the atmosphere of the home ain ignorant and superstitious, is to say the least, of it, a wasteful method’ (Some projects of the CMS, 1913, p. 191). Another aim behind girls’ education was to provide suitable wives for Pastors, Catechists, School Masters and other mission agents… (Dalton: 1963. p. 13). The Missionaries had some particular s about vocational education. Eira Dalton, a lady missionary of CMS pointed out: ‘Besides book leasing, sewing, knitting and spinning were taught so that girls could do something towards earning their living after they left school’ (1963, p. 13).
Thomas Norton was the first missionary of the Church Missionary Society and the pioneer of modern education in North Travancore. It was Munro who set him at the station of Alleppey in 1916 (CMS Proceedings, 1818, p. 105) He established a school at Alleppey where 40 to 50 children were instructed (CMS Proceedings, 1818, p. 112).
Amelia Baker – the Pioneer Missionary in the field of Girls’ Education in North Travancore
Amelia Baker was the pioneer of girls’ education in North Travancore. She was the wife of Henry Baker and worked among the women in Travancore for 68 years. She started a school for girls in Kottayam in 1820 (Dalian: 1963, p. 59). This was the first CMS girls’ school in Travancore. The activities o Henry Baker are very significant in the history of education in Kerala. He stabilised a number of primary schools.
When Amelia Baker started her school for girls, it was difficult for her to secure regular attendance. So she decided to have the girls with her in the house. She began the school with 6 girls, all below the age of twelve and more joined year after year. (Hunt: 1933, p. 82). The earliest girls of the CMS schools were the children who lived near the mission compound. These pupils were the children of Syrians and high caste Hindus (Dalian: 1963, p. 13). At Cochin the early pupils were the Jewish children (CMS Proceedings, 1821, p. 168). But as in the case of South Travancore, parents were not in favour of the education of their daughters. So the missionaries took several girls into their house to stay with them and to be taught reading, writing, arithmetic and different kinds of skills. When more missionaries arrived, similar schools were started in Alleppey, Cochin and other places by Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Norton and Ridsdale. The missionaries induced the elderly people by giving them honorarium (Hunt: 1933, pp. 68-69). All the expenses of the students at school were met and even the promise of dowry was made for the future (Dalton 1963, p. 55). The expense of each student per day was ‘one Chukram and three quarters, besides their clothes and other incidental expenses’ (The Missionary Register, 1821, p. 518). For such expenses the missionaries formed a separate fund.
Educational Institutions under the CMS
The CMS missionaries established different kinds of institutions for the development of education: Syrian College, Grammar School, Parochial School, Syrian Girls’ School, Girls’ Boarding School, and Village School were some of them.
At the beginning, Syrian College was intended only for boys. The Grammar School was mainly meant for Syrian youth. A number of Parochial Schools attached to the Syrian churches were started for both boys and girls. Syrian Girls’ Schools were intended for Syrian girls only. In Village Schools both boys and girls were taught. Some missionaries opened Boarding Schools for girls. Nair Schools formed another group of institutions and these schools were opened in two places at the request of the members of the Nair community. Both boys and girls were taught in the Anglo Vernacular Schools, Night Schools and Evening Schools were opened for the benefit of those who were employed in manual labour during the day. Other institutions established by the CMS missionaries in later years included High Schools and Training Schools.
Expansion of Girls’ Education
The Schools of Amelia Baker progressed slowly. In 1820, there were only 6 girls in her school. In 1827 there were 18 girls. All these except two, e under 12 years of age, and had scarcely learnt anything before they came. They are now employed, from morning till noon, at their needles etc. and in the after part of the day at their book’ (CMS Proceedings, 1828, p. 98).
During the year 1928-29, the number of schools in Kottayam was creased and there were 34 schools under Henry Baker. But the number of girls’ schools was not increased (CMS Proceedings, 1829, p. 103). The total number of girls in Amelia Baker’s School increased to 42 in 1830. (CMS Proceedings, 1830, pp. 65-66). Though the number of schools and scholars did not increase in 1832, there was an increase in the number of girls. In that year there were 931 students attending schools, of these 124 were Christian girls and 8 were non-Christian girls (The Missionary Registrar, 1832, p. 138).
Girls’ education spread in Cochin also. The first missionary who arrived at Cochin was Thomas Dawson. Mrs. Dawson worked among the women of Cochin. She died on January 8, 1824. When she died Dawson remarked: ‘I d not say much her heart was frequently rejoiced, on her death-bed, on hearing the efforts […] India, for the benefit of her own sex….’ (The Missionary Register, 1923, p. 122). The Jews at Jew Town in Cochin wanted to establish a school and the number of children increased rapidly. All of them were Jewish children. In this school many female children attended classes. (CMS Proceedings, 1821, p. 168). In 1820 Jones, his wife and two school masters joined Thomas Dawson, and due to their efforts the number of children increased 96 (CMS Proceedings, 1821, p. 168). Suddenly the number of scholars was reduced to 20. About this, Proceedings of the CMS 1820-21 (1821, p. 168) remarked: ‘The reason was to be assigned to the introduction of the Malayalam translation of Dr. Watt’s Historical Catechism’. It was promptly withdrawn and Old Testament History introduced in the School.
Under Sargon, the next missionary, the number of schools at Cochin Increased rapidly. During the years 1821-22 the number of schools increased from 10 to 35, with 806 scholars. Among them a good number of scholars were girls (CMS Proceedings, 1822, p. 152). Samuel Ridsdale and his wife were two other missionaries who worked among the people at Cochin after 1820s. In Cochin a building was erected upon 16 acres of land. A seminary was opened for boys and another one for girls within the compound. (The Missionary Register, 1831, p. 136). Mrs. Ridsdale opened a female school in which Dutch, French and Portuguese pupils as well as Indians were taught. A certain number of children were fed and clothed. In 1827 Ridsdale commented: ‘In the interesting work of Female Education, we have had unexpected success. Our Native-Girls’ Schools are four in number, and contain 130 children, our English Girls’ Schools are three in number and contain about 120’ (The Missionary Register, 1827, p. 98).
Around 1833, the missionaries opened a few new stations at Cochin. They were Waippa, Tattapatt, Chollai, Perungi and Chemmunra. In each station, they opened schools. Children of various castes attended these schools. The female school at Tallappali was attended by 15 girls (The Missionary Register, 1833, p. 201).
In Alleppey, Mrs. Norton entered the field of women’s education. When Mrs. Norton died on February 20, 1822, she had eight girls under her instruction (CMS Proceedings, 1822, p. 156). During this time a Mission School and a Bazaar School were established outside the Mission compound. A few of the scholars in both these schools were girls. In 1824-25 there were three schools in Alleppey with 109 boys and 63 girls (CMS Proceedings, 1825, p.x). One notable thing about these schools was that nearly all the students were Syrian Christians. Non-Christians in all the schools together did not come to more than 40 (CMS Proceedings, 1826, p. 101). Norton’s second wife took interest in girls’ education and started a girls’ school with nine or ten girls (The Missionary Register, 1826, p. 116). Before her death on January 15, 1826, she established a boarding school for girls. (The Missionary Register, 1827, p. 55). In 1830, the number of girls in this school increased to 26.
Another CMS station in Malabar was Tellicherry. In spring, the Missionary opened schools there. In 1831, there were 2 schools in which 144 boys and 13 girls were studying. Moreover 28 youths and adults were also under instruction (The Missionary Register, 1831, p. 507). Thus wherever missionaries established churches, they also opened schools. In 1823, in all these districts, there were 43 stations which had 226 schools with 12, 311 scholars, of whom 2354 were girls (The Missionary Register, 1823, p. 523). During this period they also felt the need for starting more boarding schools for girls and therefore a boarding school was established at every station.
Girls’ Education after the CMS Mission of Help
After 1825 there arose a disagreement between the CMS Missionaries and the Metropolitan who was the leader of the Syrian Churches in Travancore. However, at the Mavelikkara Synod (1836), the twenty years of service rendered by the CMS Mission of Help at the request of Munro was terminated. After that the CMS established their own churches and mission schools in other places such as Mavelikkara, Thiruvalla, Mundakayam, Trichur, Kunnamkulam, Pallam and other places. A number of schools were established in these places. Most of them were Primary, Vernacular and Anglo-Vernacular Schools.
In Kottayam, a new school called Normal School was established by Mrs. Johnson. Girls received somewhat advanced studies here. They could read fluently and without making mistakes. The children’s general conduct was also good. The uniqueness of this school was that the pupils considered their teacher as their best friend. In 1850, the number of students in this school was 52 (The Missionary Register, 1851, p. 518).
Want of qualified masters was the chief drawback of these schools during this time (The Missionary Register, 1851, p. 519). The change in the attitude of the society towards girls’ education can be seen from the words of Mrs. Norton. She said: `… the girls brought up in this school were anxiously sought for marriage by the young men of the congregation. They now appear to be quite aware of the advantages to be expected from a union with women whose minds have been subjected to some degree of cultivation…’ (The Missionary Register, 1938, p. 284).
Besides the seminary and boarding schools, some village schools were also opened during this period. The number of girl scholars increased to 87 in Alleppey district (The Missionary Register, 1843, p. 200). During the year 1839 there were girls’ boarding schools at Kottayam under Mrs. Bailey and Mrs. Baker, at Cochin under Mrs. Ridsdale and then under the care of Mrs. Harley and at Alleppey under Mrs. Norton. The missionaries admitted girls Tom all castes and creeds. In the boarding school of Mrs. Baker, Syrians, Nairs, Arrians and Ezhavas lived together. The students of the boarding schools underwent a careful domestic and moral training. About the training given in these institutions Thomas, a native pastor remarked: `The girls formerly taught in this school, unlike the generality of women in this country, have become real help-mates to their husbands by being qualified to help them in keeping household accounts, paying the labourers in the paddy fields, teaching the young children and so forth according to their circumstances and positions in life (CMS Proceedings, 1881, p. 124).
Mrs. Blackman established Female Day Schools in the surrounding villages (The Missionary Register, 1,839, p. 507). The Missionaries start schools in Trippunithura and Puthukadu. Many applications had been made by Syrians and non-Christians for the establishment of schools during this time. But ‘want of funds would prevent them from responding to all the applications thus made’ (The Missionary Register, 1840, p. 446).
To attract more girls, Missionaries appointed lady teachers from the native Christians. Girls in the Norwal School had been appointed as school mistresses during these periods. Another feature of the development of girls’ education was that some of the old pupils of Amelia Baker themselves started their own schools in their respective places (CMS Proceedings, 1865, p. 149). More schools were established in Pallom, Kollad. Muttam, Aymanam, Ancheri, Kilinoor, Eramallur, Vakathanam, Ramamangalam and other places. The Hill Arrians’ Mission began functioning in the early part of 1848 (Hunt: 1933, pp. 1831-1838).
The work of Henry Baker Senior was continued by his son Henry Baker Junior. He extended his activities to some other places like Velluthuruthy, Changanacherry, Erikad, Kavalam, Kurumbanadom, Thuruthy, Kurichy, Mooledom, Thottakad, Karikkamattom, Kangazha, Kulathoor, Kaipuzha, Mundakayarri, Arpukara, Kootikkal, Melukavu, Edakunnam, Kanam, South Chengalam, Muttathumavu, Manjadikari, Pampady, Koovapally and Valakom (Dalton: 1966, p. 23). According to the Madras Church Missionary Record (1878, pp. 6-7), the CMS Missionaries had occupied 114 villages in Kottayam district. In 1878 they had 51 schools with 58 teachers (51 men and 7 women) and 1726 pupils (1231 boys and 495 girls). Of the 51 schools, one was a boys’ school, 6 were girls’ and 44 were mixed schools. Most of them were primary schools. A few of them were Vernacular and Anglo-Vernacular institutions.
Mavelikkara became a station in 1836. Joseph Peet was the missionary of this place. In spite of bitter opposition from caste Hindus, he carried on his educational and evangelical endeavours. He established schools in Poovathur, Kodukulangi, Chengannur, Elathur, Thalavady, Puthupally, Kaneet, Krishnapuram and Kattanam (Agur: 1903, p. 1002). Mrs. Peet started two girls’ schools there. In 1875, there were 56 schools including 2 boys’, 2 girls’ and 52 mixed schools with 39 teachers and 1745 scholars, 1380 boys and 365 girls (Madras Church Missionary Record, 1878, pp. 6-7).
Trichur became a mission centre in 1840 (Agur: 1903, p. 1108). Schools were opened at Trichur, Kolapadi, Moolicherry, Kunnamkulam and other places (Madras Church Missionary Record, 1850, p. 239). By 1878, there were seven schools in Trichur itself, 5 boys’ and 2 girls’ schools with 7 male teachers and 157 pupils including 101 boys and 56 girls (Madras Church Missionary Record. 1878, pp. 6-7).
In Alleppey, by 1878 there were 15 schools with 16 teachers (15 men and 1 woman) and 313 pupils (270 boys and 43 girls). Except the two seminaries, all the other schools in Alleppey were primary in standard (Madras Church Missionary Record, 1878, pp. 5-7).
In 1847 the missionaries formed a separate station in Tiruvalla under Hawksworth. He took keen interest in the education of slave children. In 1849 Hawksworth started two primary schools – one for boys and another for girls (Report of the CMS Schools 1976, p. 10). Some children of the high caste (communities also attended these schools. Later more schools were opened at Kaviyur, Mepral and Perumthuruthi (CMS Proceeding, 1857, p. 140). Hawksworth opened schools at Thalawadi and Eraviperoor also. These schools provided educational facilities for a large number of slave children including girls. In 1882 they wanted to start a girls’ school for children of diverse caste and creed and so a boarding school was opened in Nadakadu (The CMS High School, 1933, p. 11). In April 1885, it became a middle school and in 1890, VI form or matriculation class was added.
Schools were opened at Kunnamkulam also in spite of the bitter opposition of some savarna Hindus. A new school was opened for the children of fisher folk. Another school was opened at Vadakkancherry for girls and girls’ boarding schools were opened at Kunnamkulam and Bazaar (CMS Proceedings, 1901, p. 327). By 1905, there were 11 schools in Kunnamkulam district with 23 male and 14 female teachers and 605 boys and 202 girls (The Travancore and Cochin Diocesan Record, 1905, pp. 74-75). Some of these schools were upgraded to Vernacular Middle Schools and English Middle Schools during this period.
Girls’ Education after Education Codes
The Education and Inspection Code of 1910 marked the inauguration of the existing educational system and policy. Details regarding recognition of pools, qualification of teachers, textbooks, school records, and rules of grant-n-aid were given in the Code. The Code encouraged primary education. But very great demands were made on the managers to increase accommodation, furniture, records etc. The observance of religious neutrality and recognition of equal rights for all classes of people were the two other features of the Code (The Travancore and Cochin Diocesan Record, 1910, p. 24). But the actual implementation of the Code caused great difficulties to the CMS primary schools. Only limited time was allowed to satisfy the conditions of the code and official apathy caused delay in getting government grants. Owing to these difficulties a number of primary schools were closed down by the CMS (The Travancore and Cochin Diocesan Record, 1911. p. 57). Six of the Buchanan branch schools also had to be closed in 1911 (CMS Proceedings, 1912, p 149).
In 1889, Cochin Government framed some rules for giving grant-in-at to private schools. This grant system helped the CMS Schools in Cochin also. In 1911, the Cochin Education Code was introduced. According to the code all the educational institutions in the state were divided into Vernacular an Anglo-Vernacular Schools. The liberal grants allowed by the Code stimulate the growth of aided schools including girls’ schools (Thresia: 1962, p. 14).
Even after the introduction of different Codes, the number of CM Schools in Travancore and Cochin increased. There were 225 Elementary Village Schools, 16 Middle Schools for boys and 7 for girls. From there the best boys, could go into the high schools at Kottayam, Mavelikkara or Trichur and the girls could go into the Baker Memorial High School and the Buchanan Institution for training as teachers and Church Workers (Some Educational Projects of the CMS, 1913, p. 46). During this period, it was possible for an intelligent girl to raise herself from the primary classes to matriculation standard.
In 1916, the Church Missionary Society celebrated its centenary in Travancore and Cochin. In 1916 the society had 307 Schools in North Travancore and Cochin, with 740 teachers and 19,128 scholars of whom 5,994 were girls. In the boarding schools there were 337 boys and 224 girls (CMS Triple Jubilee Souvenir, 1966, p. 42). On the occasion of the centenary celebrations, the Maharaja of Travancore commented: The advent of Protestant missionaries marked the commencement of a new era in the history of Travancore. A hundred years ago, an English school was quite an unknown thing to the people of this land. The scheme of imparting instruction in government schools was projected and brought into operation long after the enterprising missionaries had begun to gather the fruits of their laudable work in the field of education. They have not left out of consideration, the backward classes. The missionaries spent the best part of their time and energy in improving the condition of these poor fold’ (CMS centenary, 1916, M.O.)
Schools in the Period 1916-1947
According to statistics, there were 327 lower primary schools in English, 10 middle schools and 6 vernacular middle schools making a total of 343. Among these, most of the schools were mixed (CMS Diary and Almanac, 1927, p. 21). During the year 1922, about 200 primary schools received grants from the government. But the managers of the schools had to supplement money to give wages to teachers. The unaided schools were fully financed by the CMS. The CMS was giving an annual grant of Rs.10,000/- for schools. With the help of this amount, schools were maintained and teachers were paid according to the then existing scales of pay ranging from Rs. 6 to Rs. 14 per mensum (Travancore and Cochin Diocesan Record, 1922, pp. 5-6).
The number of schools increased and in 1936-37 there were 352 lower primary schools, 13 English middle schools and 6 vernacular middle schools making a total of 371 schools (CMS Diary and Almanac, 1937, p. 10). After 1940, the CMS schools in Kerala had to face more financial difficulties. The cut in CMS grants adversely affected the financial position of the Vernacular School (CMS Report, 1941, p. 38). This led to the closing of some of the unaided schools.
In 1945, the government introduced free and compulsory education in Travancore for all children between the ages of 5 and 10. The Code also recommended the abolition of uneconomic and uncompleted primary Schools (The Travancore Administration Report, 1946, p. 150). Owing to the reduction of the CMS grant and the absence of Government grant to some schools, the CMS was forced to close down some of their unaided primary schools, and to surrender some schools as gifts to the Government. As a result, the number came down to 164 lower primary schools, 12 English middle schools and 5 Malayalam middle schools making a total of 181 (20,889 boys and 15,874 girls) schools in Travancore and Cochin in 1947. Most of these were mixed hoots and a large number of girls had attended these schools. These educational activities of the CMS missionaries brought about significant changes in the traditional society of Kerala.
The Basel Evangelical Missionary Society and its Activities in Malabar
When the new charter of the East India Company opened the vast continent of India to British as well as other foreign settlers in 1833, the Committee of the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society decided to establish their Mission in parts of India, not yet occupied by another society. The first batch of missionaries was sent to India in 1834.
Hermann Gundert was the founder of the Malabar Mission of the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society (B GEM Report, 1900, p. 73). In 1839 the first centre was opened at Nettur in Tellicherry in British Malabar and Gundert settled there in a building donated by Strange, a judge under the English East India Company (Hock: 1858, p. 77).
Along with evangelical work, the missionaries concentrated on educational activities also. They started schools in their areas mainly for the education of Christian boys and girls and later extended the educational facilities to non-Christian children also. On May 14, 1939 Gundert established a boarding school for boys in Tellicherry. This was the first boys’ school of the Base Evangelical Missionary Society in the Malabar Province (BGEM Report, 1842 p. 21).
Julie Gundert – the Pioneer Missionary of the BEMS in the Field of Girls’ Education in Malabar
When Gundert established a boarding school for boys in 1839, Julie Gundert, his wife opened another boarding school for girls in the same year. This school was established at Nettoor in Telicherry. This was the first girls’ school of the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society in Malabar. At the time of opening a girls’ school by Julie Gundert, the opposition against girls’ education had subsided in Travancore and Cochin. Some of the girls in the school were children of native Christians who had migrated from Tamil areas where girls’ education was already in favour.
Nature of Schools Established
The missionaries established Seminaries, Normal schools, Preparatory or Middle Schools, Boarding Schools for boys and girls, Day Schools, Parochial Schools, High Schools, Anglo- Vernacular Schools, Franco-vernacular Schools, and Infant Schools. Among these, Infant Schools, Parochial Schools, Franco-Vernacular Schools, and Normal Schools were mixed institutions.
Expansion of Girls’ Education in Malabar
The missionaries started elementary schools for boys and girls wherever they started congregations. They established an English School and a Female Day School in Tellicherry in 1840. In 1841 the number of girls in the English School was 25 (BGEM Report, 1842, p. 21). In 1842 the total number of scholars in Tellicherry was 165 including girls (BGEM Report, 1843, p. 62). The missionaries opened schools in Cannanore and in 1842, the total number of pupils under instruction was 80 (BGEM Report, 1843, p. 62). Meanwhile the missionaries opened a station in Anjarakandy and then a school where 30 children were given instruction. In 1842 John Michael Fritz, another missionary started work in Calicut and opened schools for boys. In 1842, there were 120 children under instruction (BGEM Report, 1843, p. 62). In 1846 his wife Margret Fritz opened a school for infants. Soon it became a girls’ school and by 1847 there were 27 girls in this school (Malayala Basel Mission Sabhayude Charitra Samkshepam, 1989, p. 97). When Miss. Carolina Mook, an educational missionary of BEMS arrived, girls’ education in Tellicherry was strengthened. The number of girls increased and in 1845 there were 15 scholars in the Female Day School (BGEM Report, 1843, p. 62).
But the missionaries had to face certain difficulties. One of the missionaries reported: ‘Yet they have given me no small trouble by their adherence to caste prejudice and customs’ (BGEM Report, 1845, p. 59). Another difficulty was due to the early marriage of these scholars. The 5th report of the BGEM (1845, p. 54) pointed out… ‘girls were dropped out from the boarding schools because of the early marriage’. In 1844, among the 24 girls in the Boarding School, 4 were married in the course of the year.
The missionaries opened schools for non-Christian girls also. In the year 1846, the average attendance of the Day School for Hindu girls in Calicut was 35 (BGEM Report, 1846, p. 54). Another was a Brahmin Girls’ School. It was established in Tellicherry before 1857 (BGEM Report, 1857, p. 10). In every station, the work pertaining to girls’ education was done by the wives of the missionaries and by other lady missionaries. At Chombala, Christian Muller started girls’ schools along with boys’ schools. Before 1857, a girls’ boarding school was also opened in Chiracal (BGEM Report, 1858, p. 68).
During this period there were four kinds of Schools in Malabar – Boarding Schools, Vernacular Schools, Day Schools and English Schools. Among these, the English Schools were intended for boys only. At the same time some people regarded all the endeavours of the Missionaries with suspicion. For example, the missionaries introduced the use of slate in 1856, in some of their schools. But the parents interpreted it as ‘a cunning plan devised for conversion’ (BGEM Report, 1857, p. 22) and half of the girls were withdrawn within a few days.
The missionaries tried to improve the standard of the schools. But it was hard for them to maintain order and discipline in the schools. One missionary rote: ‘Order is still a hard lesson to many and regularity both in attendance and in the payment of fees requires again and again to be strictly enforced’ GEM Report, 1857, p. 23).
The missionaries established schools in Palghat as well. According to e available statistics, in 1859 the number of pupils in the Malabar area creased to 1345, of whom 1187 were boys and 158 were girls (BGEM report, 859, p. 12). In Cannanore, increasing attention was paid to the education of e children of converts. Seven boarding schools were established there – three for boys and four for girls. In some areas, schools were attended by all Christian children, girls as well as boys from 6 to 14 years (B GEM Report, 1859, p. 21). During this period, the missionaries introduced the system of collecting fees in the school. At first, a fee of one ‘anna’ per mensem was introduced in the schools of Cannanore. Most of the parents were willing to pay this amount (BGEM Report, 1859, p. 11). Later it was introduced in all other schools.
The year 1861 was one of financial difficulty for the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society. So some of the English Schools were abolished in 1862 (BGEM Report, 1862, p. 35). During this time a night school was established for boys of 14 to 18 years. But no girl was admitted to this school.
Later when the number of congregations increased, more schools were opened. Thus, in Calicut, education expanded to Coilandy, Ellattoor, Beypoor, Manmoly and Malapuram (BGEM Report, 1867, p. 6). During this time the Christian Schools at Cannanore and Chowra, and the non Christian schools at Chalattu and Mulil made good progress with regard to the number of students and their proficiency. In Mulil there were 13 non-Christian girls who were attending schools (BGEM Report, 1868, p. 49). During this year there was a day school for girls and a school for non-Christians in Tellicherry (BGEM Report, 1868, p. 57). In Chombala and Muverattu there were two mixed parochial schools. During the 1860s, the Christian Girls’ Day School in Palghat was attended by more girls. In 1870, schools were established in many outstations in Palghat, Kannanoor, Karuwapara, Panayoor and Wadakkancherry (BGEM Report, 1870, p. 42).
Introduction of Compulsory Education
The missionaries introduced compulsory education among the children in their congregations. According to the rule laid down by the mission, Christian parents or guardians were bound to send their children to school and educate them till they were about 14 years of age. The missionaries thought that ‘the future of our churches lies to a large extent with the children, and we cannot tolerate that fathers and mothers should grow up, who cannot read their Bible and Hymn book’ (BGEM Report, 1898, p. 82). They decided ‘of course if education is compulsory, the school must be made accessible to everybody.’ (BGEM Report, 1898, p. 82) It was with this objective that the missionaries established schools after 1872.
In every congregation an elementary parochial school had been established for the education of boys and girls. They established two kinds of elementary schools – elementary schools for Christians and elementary schools for non-Christians.
There were boys’ and girls’ boarding schools. In the girls’ Boarding School at Calicut there were 73 girls. About the social condition of these girls the 33rd Report of BGEM (1873, p. 35) pointed out: ‘Of the 73 girls on the list….22 have lost both parents, 36 have lost one, one is a heathen, the parents of the others are still heathen, 7 come from wretched families, the parents of 4 others are very poor, the parents of one girl live in Bypoor’. So the boarding school was a charitable institution for the girls. A higher class was usually attached to those schools. And those who joined these classes became useful for service as school mistresses.
Middle schools, Training Classes and Seminary had the special aim of supplying the mission with catechists and teachers. In the middle schools, the boys remained for 4 years; those who wished to become teachers had to enter the training class for about two years. The special aim of middle school was to prepare pupils for the training school classes and the seminary (BGEM Report, 1873, p. 41).
In 1872, there were 4 Anglo-Vernacular schools in Malabar. But these schools were intended only for boys.
In 1881 the missionaries established an infant school in Calicut. This school was carried on with a modification of Frobelts Kindergarten in Germany (BGEM Report, 1877, p. 64). These schools were first established for the children of poor women, who were compelled to do coolie work. In 1883 there were 15 boys and 18 girls in this school (BGEM Report, 1884, p. 71). Later, infant schools were established in Cannanore, Nettoor, Tellicherry, Calicut, Pudiarakal, Codacal, and Paraperi. The missionaries employed a psychological approach when dealing with these children.
Even though education expanded in more places, there was a sudden fall in the number of scholars due to the competition of the rival schools in some areas. According to the available statistics the total number of pupils in Malabar was 1298 including girls (BGEM Report, 1880, p. 76). In some of these schools Malayalam, French, and English were taught. In most of the girls’ schools the missionaries introduced needle work and embroidery as part of the curriculum (BGEM Report, 1879, p. 66).
Girls’ education spread and developed still further during the next ten years. In Tellicherry a new school was opened in 1882. A separate day school for Christian girls was also established with 80 girls and a training class for female teachers attached to it (BGEM Report, 1883, p. 58). Moreover a new infant school was opened in 1884 with 25 boys and some girls (BGEM Report, .1885, p. 68). Dharmapattanam, Anjarakanty, Kuttuparambu and Chalil Were some other centres where they established schools. (BGEM Report, p. 79-80). For the Konkani speaking Brahmin girls the missionaries opened a new primary school in Tellicherry. In Codacal new stations were opened at Parappery, Malappuram, Mancherry and Nelampur. The schools in these places showed a steady progress (BGEM Report, 1884, p. 75). In Chombala, Payoli and Karakadu some new schools were opened. In 1891 the important outstations were Mahe, Kandappenkunndu, Wadagara, Maverattu, Payoli,Perampada, Tolpattil, and Karakadu. In most of these stations schools were established (BGEM Report, 1891, p. 66). Important outstations in Calicut were Coilandy, Pudiangad, Collam, Korappura, Tiruvangadi and Chelaparambu. In all these stations there were schools for boys and girls. In 1888 the Parochial Girls’ school in Calicut had three divisions – Vernacular or Primary School, Middle School, and Preparandi School (BGEM Report, 1888, p. 88). Ruhland, a missionary opened a school in Vaniyankulam in 1886. In this school, there were 71 pupils of whom 3 were girls (BGEM Report, 1887, p. 82). Owing to the opposition to girls’ schools. the missionaries could not open a school in Shoranur. They could open a school in Ponammana. In this school there were 40 boys and 4 girls (BGEM Report, 1892, p. 73).
In 1886 Kasaragod became a separate station (BGEM Report, 1901, p. 45). Important outstations in this station were Vadakkancherry, Panayur and Kanam. The missionaries opened schools in some of the outstations. Some of them were mixed schools. In the Parochial Girls’ schools in Kasargod there were 14 girls during the year 1891 (B GEM Report); during the year 1892, there were 2303 pupils including 494 girls, 1784 boys and 25 infants under instruction (BGEM Report, 1892, p. 11). In Chalasheri the missionaries established a new school. In 1897 there were 3317 pupils of whom 2544 were boys and 773 girls (BGEM Report, 1897. p. 11)
The schools under BEMS in the year 1894 may be classified under three heads – primary schools, secondary schools including Training School, and, Theological Seminaries. Around this time each class was known as a standard.
In the upper Primary School for Girls, a 4th Standard was added and the missionaries pointed out that as a result of the ‘prejudice that married girls cannot attend school has been broken through’ (BGEM Report, 1894, p. 92). About the girls in this school, it is reported: ‘The girls are lively and sharp’ (BGEM 1894, p. 93). The missionaries observed that ‘Gradually caste prejudice also are wearing away’ (BGEM Report, 1894, pp. 92-93). The missionaries started a training school for girls and in 1894 there were 4 girls in this school (BGEM Report, 1895, p. 11).
According to a policy, the Educational Department of Madras Presidency insisted upon teaching English in the lowest standards, even in primary schools. The missionaries thought that it was not desirable to permit the child to begin with English and feared, it was a destructive policy hindering the development of a child (BGEM Report, 1894, p. 60).
The missionaries introduced fees in their schools. But the amount of fee was very small and ‘much below the usual rates’ (BGEM Report, 1897, p. 82) and in the case of very poor children they were defrayed from the poor fund. They explained: ‘We do not believe in free education, for, as a rule, people will only value what they pay for…’ (BGEM Report, 1898, p. 82).
At the close of the 19th century, some parents developed a strong desire for education and to establish girls’ schools. Some of the schools at this time were in a very flourishing condition. But the irregularity in attendance was a source of great trouble. In a new school, very often the school mistress had to go round in the morning from house to house and bring the children to school personally. The missionaries complained: ‘But the greatest drawback everywhere in India is early marriage’ (BGEM Report, 1898, p. 95).
At the close of the 19th century, the missionaries could establish Parochial Day schools, at almost all their stations. In these schools girls were admitted along with boys.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the missionaries had to face several unfavourable circumstances in this area. One debilitating factor was the outbreak of infectious disease. According to the 61st Report of the B GEM (1901, p. 74), ‘There was much sickness and death…. During this time, due to the spread of these diseases several pupils including girls died…. Besides, the hostile attitude of some people led to the decrease of scholars in some schools. The BGEM Report (1901, p. 46) pointed out: ‘The fanatical Adhikari there tries his best to prevent not only his co-religionists, but also others from going to our school’. Even though the missionaries faced such unfavourable circumstances in some of the places, the number of scholars including girls increased considerably. According to the 61st BGEM Report (1901, p. 9) the total number of pupils under instruction was 4295, of which 691 were Christian and 292 non-Christian girls.
During these years the missionaries desired to upgrade the Christian rls’ School at Calicut to a High School to give more advanced studies to rls, under the management of Miss Ehrensperger. In 1905 there were 239 is in this school. Metzger, the headmistress contributed much to raise the standard of female education (BGEM Report, 1907, pp. 92-93). She commented: ‘It is a pity that so many of those girls, on behalf of their marriages, are taken m school long before their education is in any way completed’ (BGEM Report, 1905, p. 72).
In the following years several non-Christian parents began to send their girls to school. This was a desirable change. In 1906 the total number of pupils was 5368 of whom 4160 were boys and 1178 girls (BGEM Report, 1906, p. 560).
The missionaries admitted handicapped children in the schools and taught them along with other pupils. For example, in Chombala, there was a blind girl in the Orphan School (BGEM Report, 1901, p. 85). Another significant change in some girls’ schools was the introduction of pillow-lace making.
The beginning of the 20th century was a period of mass movement in the Malabar area. There had been a movement among the Thiyyas or Ezhava caste for several years and their primary motive was not religious. According to the 66th Report of the B GEM (1906, p. 76) `[…] what occupies the minds of the Thiyya community is […] what shall we do in order to raise the social scale?’ When the Thiyyas were the friendliest people to the Christian religion, the Muslims were antagonistic. The BGEM Report (1907, p. 77) says: In education, the Mappillas (Muslims) are still deplorably backward….The desire for a better education is increasing, and in proportion to the growth of education, the opposition of Mappillas to Christianity is less dense….’
The idea of girls’ education attracted some people and organisations and some of them attempted to establish schools. The Palghat Municipality opened a Model Girls’ School in 1907. These attempts helped the expansion of girls’ education in Malabar.
In 1908, the total number of pupils rose to 5724 of which 1237 were girls. Besides, there were 205 children in the infant schools (BGEM Report, 1909, p. 9). Education among the girls progressed gradually, especially among the non-Christian girls and in 1910 there the 6764 pupils in the Basel Mission Schools of whom 628 were Christian girls, 724 non-Christian girls, 896 Christian boys and 4516 non-Christian girls, 896 Christian boys and 4516 non-Christian boys, besides 204 infants in the infant schools (BGEM Report, 1911, pp 16-17).
In the next year there was also a significant growth in the number of children and it increased to 7224 pupils of whom 5699 were boys and 15 25 girls (BGEM Report, 1912, pp. 16-17).
In 1912 the Society had three high schools – one for girls and two for boys apart from incomplete secondary schools and a second grade college. Besides, the Society established a training institution for elementary teachers in Nettur. In 1910, the enrolment in this training class was 10 students – 6 Christians and 4 Hindus of whom 2 were girls – one Christian and one Hindu. This institution was a blessing to the women in Malabar and it promoted the development of women’s education and enhancement of their status in Kerala (BGEM Report, 1911, pp. 45-46). It is one of the great endeavours of the missionaries to teach the people to consider that education of children is one of their greatest privileges, as well as their most sacred duties’ (BGEM Report, 1912, p. 47).
In the year 1913, the total number of scholars in Malabar was 8345 of which 1754 were girls (BGEM Report, 1913, p. 12). The increase in the total number of scholars in schools was attributed to the common awareness of the population to the education prevailing at that time.
Higher Education for Girls
For the higher education of girls, the missionaries did not establish any separate college for women. But they provided facilities in the colleges and admitted women along with men. When the Boys’ High School at Calicut was raised to a College on 17th March 1908, ‘an intermediate class was opened with twenty students consisting of Christians, Thiyyas (among them two girls) Nairs and Brahmins’ (B GEM Report. 1909, p. 47). Thus in the first batch itself, the missionaries admitted women in the newly begun college of higher education and it promoted the development of women’s education in Kerala.
Crisis in the Mission
The first and second decades of the 20th century was a period of extreme difficulty for the mission. The beginning of the 20th century was a period of financial crisis for the missionaries. This worsened with the outbreak of the World War. When the war broke out in 1914, all the German missionaries were interned by the British Government as enemy aliens (The Pioneer Mail, 1914, p. 3). Besides, it was the economic poverty and breakdown caused by the war which made it difficult for the mission to pay for the work of the educational activities in Malabar and other places. There was no more new establishment of schools for a while though the existing ones functioned, as before. By the end of the war all the Basel Mission foreign personnel had been forced to leave from the territory under British and French control (Jenkins: 1989, p. 16). In 19 under a mandate from the Government of India, the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society in Malabar was affiliated to the South India United Church TUC) (Furtado: 1985, p. 260).
As the aim of education was purely evangelistic, the curriculum was med to attain this objective. In girls’ schools, the missionaries considered religious instruction as an unavoidable part of the educational system. The Bible was a compulsory text book for all classes. In His Highness’ Free School also the Bible was regularly read and explained (Joy: 1994, pp. 78,128). Moreover missionaries considered all the aspects of the child’s school life — class-work, play, special objects and group life — as parts of the curriculum.
Reading, writing and arithmetic were taught in these schools. Writing on the palmyra leaf, and the simpler rules of arithmetic and geography formed part of their studies (Letter, Mrs. Mault to Foreign Secretary, 1830). In the higher classes girls had a few lessons in English. Besides this, a fair knowledge of history, geography and elements of natural philosophy was imparted in the vernacular (MMEC, 1938, p. 38). In the seminary, the standard of education was high and the subjects taught included astronomy, physical science, logic, theology, Hebrew and Greek (Letter of Secretary, 1887). In the Normale Female School of Mrs. Johnson under CMS, they had to learn about Asia and Europe from the Malayalam translation of Cliff’s book. They could locate different countries on the map (Joy: 1995, p. 128). Instrumental music, needle work, and embroidery were taught in the Christava Mahilalayam School. The girls learnt to make their own jackets, underclothes and children’s dresses, cushion covers and table clothes (Hester Smith: 1976, p. 24).
The lady missionaries followed a fixed time table in their boarding schools. For recreation the girls were taken out once in a week not only for fresh air and exercises but also as a kind of advertisement. The missionaries included vocational education in the curriculum. Telling method was used in the CMS Schools. Another method of teaching was the ‘monitor system’. In some schools each class had a monitor. The students in the highest classes were sent to the lowest classes as monitors. The medium of instruction was Malayalam. Some people desired to learn English. So they introduced English in some schools. Throughout their period, the Missionaries conducted examinations in schools (Joy: 1995, pp. 128-131).
As regards college studies, all the colleges in India had to follow the courses prescribed by the Indian Universities and these courses differed only in details (Women’s. Christian College, 1935, p. 1).
When we consider the curriculum of the schools under the BEMS missionaries, the special aim of the middle school was to prepare pupils for the training classes and for the seminary. In the upper secondary classes, the subjects taught were ‘Sacred History, Catechism, Holy Scripture, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Universal History, the History of India, Canarese, English, Greek, Malayalam, Sanskrit and Singing’ (BGEM Report, 1874, p. 40). In the Teacher’s Training School at Nettoor, there were two sections – the mission training class and the government training class. The missionaries introduced some selected subjects in the girls’ Secondary Schools. In 1912, Miss Metzger, the lady missionary introduced some courses on hygiene and elementary nursing in girls’ schools (BGEM Report, 1913, p. 57). In all different orphanages boys and girls used to garden work, including the making and mending of their own clothes. The girls especially learnt housekeeping according to the fashion of the different districts. (BGEM Report, 1881. p. 60).
In the later half of the century the curriculum of the elementary schools was changed. In 1894 the subjects taught were prescribed by the Educational Department of the Madras Presidency. As Malabar was one of the provinces under the Madras Presidency, the Missionaries also had to obey the instruction of the Presidency. The BGEM Report of 1894 (1894, pp. 58-59) pointed out: that all children…are forced to master not only the three R s in their mother-tongue. But in two or even three different languages…. Though we entirely disapprove of this system, we are obliged to conform to fit, because schools that do not conform to the rules are not acknowledged by Government, and their pupils are not admitted to Government Examinations.’
Teachers in South Travancore have a long history. They are known as Catechists, Readers, School Master and Teachers in different times. Owing to lack of good teachers, the first teachers for the Seminary had to be brought from Tranquebar and Tanjore (Hacker: 1908, pp. 70-71). Gradually teachers were taken from the local people. Seminaries provided teachers for many decades from its inception. In the beginning scarcity of teachers was a problem to the missionaries of the CMS. At first the Hindus who were known as Village Asans had to be employed. A seminary was established for the training of the native school masters. In BEMS, during the early days teachers were mostly men who had been educated in the schools of the society. Subsequently teachers were appointed from the normal schools or other training institutional.
The Missionaries were more particular that teachers should possess decided and consistent piety. In the selection of teachers, the Directors requested the committee to pay utmost possible attention to their religious and moral mess with other qualifications (Letter, Director to Edmond Crisp, 1834). Missionaries wanted that teachers should possess higher qualifications as well.
The missionaries of the LMS were the first to appoint lady teachers in pools (LMS Report, 1842, p. 64). This was a novel sight to the people. The first lady teacher of the LMS in South Travancore was Johanna Mead. The first lady teacher in Malabar was Julie Gundert. In 1834, there were some male native teachers in Nagercoil (TDC Minutes, 1834).
The Missionaries knew that the quality of education depended upon the quality of teachers. Some able missionaries tried to assemble some qualified youths together and to give them training. Later, the missionaries established some training schools to train the teachers in Kerala. In the beginning salary of the Asian teacher was five rupees per month. (The Missionary Register, 1821, p. 517). During the first quarter of the 20th century, LMS Missionaries introduced some programmes and projects for the benefit of the teachers. They decided to give pension to the teachers and as a first step they resolved to invest 599 to the Pension Fund (MMEC, 1924, p. 152). In the later period, the Travancore Government encouraged women and attracted them to the teaching profession. The proceedings of the CMS 1920-21 (1921, p. 91) reported: ‘The women teachers of all grades are paid more than the men by the Government, and women graduates, when they begin to teach. receive nearly twice as much as men having the same qualifications’ .
During the period of the endeavour of the LMS Missionaries, teachers were considered as the better educated persons in the society. Society considered them as their better guides also. They had a higher place in the minds of the people (Letter of Sinclair, 1933).
Other Educational Activities
The work of the LMS, CMS and BEMS Missionaries in the field of female education was not confined to the introduction of formal system of education alone. They were engaged in many other activities which had educative value.
Printing Press and Publications : Modern education is closely linked with the printing press. Charles Mead, the second missionary of the LMS had a plan to install a press from the very beginning of his work. He acquired a press from Panjore and printing materials from Tranqubar with types both Tamil and English. (Letter of Mead, EM, 1821, p. 123). The CMS missionaries wanted Malayalam types for the use of the Malayalam reading population. So Benjamnin Baily maufactured the types with the help of the local carpenters and blacksmiths (Pampady: 1973, p. 28). The CMS press in Kottayam was the first Malayalam press in Kerala. Benjamin Baily was the founder of this press. The missionaries got a printing press in English from England in October, 1821. Two more printing presses were brought from England in 1828. The EMS established a Litho press at Nettur. This became a powerful means of disseminating knowledge over Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar. Printing press gave great impetus to the development of literature and publications.
Library, Reading rooms and Lectures : The LMS Missionaries were the pioneers in opening libraries and reading rooms in Travancore. They chose common places to open libraries and reading rooms where people could come and read. Even today these are recognised as means of formal education. The CMS and BEMS missionaries also started many libraries and reading rooms in different parts of their districts and outstations.
Churches : The Christian churches have been educating the people in an indirect way. In churches, sermons have an important place. A major part of the sermons will be exposition of the Biblical morals. But along with it, many other lessons of topical relevance will also be taught (Joy: 1995, p. 95). Missionaries started Sunday school. Though the aim was evangelisation, subjects like history, geography, psychology, child marriage, widow re-marriage, caste importance of female education etc. were discussed in the classes (Joy: 1995, pp. 176-177). This also helped the development of female education directly and indirectly.
Bible Women and Zenana Work : For more than half a century the difficulties to teach the non-Chrisitan women seemed insurmountable to the missionaries. The Board of Directors (LMS) advised the missionaries to keep in direct touch with the non-Christian as well as the Christian students in their home life and even after they left the institution (Letter, R.W. Thompson to George Parker, 1911). The Zenana work was begun in South Travancore in 1872 ( Jacker: 1908, p. 68). Like other missionary societies CMS was also engaged in the Zenana activity. Many lady missionaries, native women, and bible women visited houses and evangelised people. On that occasion they imparted some knowledge about hygiene, health, superstition and so on. (Joy: 995, p. 137).
Like LMS and CMS, the BEMS also had Bible women and Zenana Mission activities. Zenana work helped the spread of education especially among the high caste families. Some of the women in the Zenanas were able to ad and write because of that.
The Medical Mission : A notable contribution to the development of women’s education in Travancore was the South Travancore Medical Mission. The Medical mission was an instrument to attract many people including the orthodox and high caste Hindus. In the beginning of the 19th century there were 13 hospitals under the London Missionary Society in Travancore (Joy: 995, p. 97). Thompson, a medical nurse sent by the LMS to Travancore as a missionary later, raised funds and trained helpers and opened a maternity ward in Neyyoor (Goodall: 1954, p. 50). The missionaries also started a ‘Leper Asylum’.
Circumstances forced the CMS Missionaries to start medical work in Travancore and Cochin. ‘Visits to Hindu houses and villages, work among the poor very soon convinced me of the duty of doing something for the sick and suffering’ said Augusta M. Blandford, one of the lady Missionaries in Travancore. In a few days Augusta M. Blandford put her plan before the Maharaja who ordered to construct a large home made of bamboo matting with thatched roof. This hospital helped a large number of low caste people. Another experiment that the missionaries introduced to teach the people about health and hygiene was the introduction of a floating dispensary with its four wards and a crèche for babies. (Joy: 1995, p. 146). A maternity and welfare centre was opened in Mekkavu in January 1934 (CMS Report, 1934, p. 284). During the period 1936-37 this centre was in charge of a young trained Indian woman doctor. Mrs. Smith conducted a weekly nursing class for the women and girls of the Baker Memorial High School (CMS Report, 1934, p. 283).
Eugene Liebendorfer, a medical doctor was the pioneer of the medical mission in Malabar (BGEM Report, 1896, p. 90). He built a small hospital out of local contribution from men and women (BGEM Report, 1892, p. 69). As this mission gained more importance, women from Malabar were trained as nurses and doctors. Ms. Kunhilla, a Sub Assistant Surgeon of Medical Mission was a former pupil of the Basel Evangelical Mission Society in Malabar. During the year 1896, 30,000 out-patients and 145 in-patients were treated in the hospital (BGEM Report, 1896, p. 90). The missionaries also established a small women’s hospital with six beds. They started a Leper Asylum at Chevayur near Calicut (BGEM Report, 1907, p. 96).
These activities of the missionaries helped women and the whole society to develop a scientific attitude towards illness and health, and to reduce superstitions and ignorance.
YMCA and YWCA : Young Men’s Christian Association has been working as a source of non-formal education in India for a long time. The Trivandrum branch of the YM.C.A. was founded by Samuel Mateer in 1873 (Menon: 1962, p. 760). Later on many village branches were established in various parts of South Travancore. The Women’s wing of it, ‘The Young Women’s Christian Association’ was started in August 1917, by a group of Christian women (Menon: 1962, p. 761).
In North Travancore YM.C.A. was run entirely by women (CMS Report, 1934, p. 285). An annual meeting of YMCA was conducted every year. Several branches of YWCA were established in different parts of Malabar during the period of Basel Evangelical missionaries. Through these organisations, the missionaries were able to instruct the people regarding village economy, cottage industries such as bee-keeping, poultry keeping etc.
Christian Farm Colony : Another attempt of some missionaries to educate women was to create a `Christian Farm Colony’. For this the missionaries secured 104 acres of land from the Government which they had discovered in the jungle, suitable for rice cultivation (Osborne: n.d., n.p.). The women in the Christian farm colony came under the influence of these missionaries, shared in their Christian home life, learnt and acquired better habits, got a new and larger outlook on life. Osborne started schools for them. Those children who left the school entered a period of industrial and domestic training. No girl was allowed to leave the colony until she could make her own clothes, and those of her prospective husband (Joy: 1995. p. 99).
The BEMS missionaries established a Christian village with twenty families of Pulaya converts. They cultivated this land scientifically and planted coconut trees. Instruction classes were also given to the people. This helped the people including women to lead an orderly life and to learn cleanliness (BGEM Report, 1859, p. 54).
Bethel Ashram was an important centre for the training of women. This Ashram attracted many girls who had finished their school education but were not old enough to be married. Some girls joined the Bethel Ashram between the period of their school and college. The Bethel Ashram was full all through the year. In May, 1933 a home science training class was begun for old girls. A dispensary was attached to it. There was also a crèche for children under the age of two besides accommodation for boys and girls between 2 and 5 years. The Bethel Ashram had its branches at Trichur, Melukavu and Kallada in Kerala and Parakal in Andhra Pradesh.
General instruction classes were held in different places and for different $ I purposes. Nayadis were considered as the lowest class in Malabar. They lived by begging and were in a state of deplorable ignorance (The Missionary Register, 1846, p. 165). Superstitions of the worst kind prevailed among them. In Mavelikkara, two instruction classes were held during the years 1925 and 1926 (CMS Report, 1925, p. 262). Women in some places participated in these instruction classes without any caste or creed distinction. In some places the instruction classes lasted for 2 to 14 days. There was also the recreational side with games and sewing, odd jobs and gardening (CS Report, 1925, p. 191).
Christian Home Movement with the Rural Hygiene Campaign was another programme of the missionaries. At Ranni, the missionaries held a Christian Home week in every parish to improve the condition of Christian homes. Talks on subjects such as advice to the newly wed, training of children, personal relations at home, Bible study etc., were delivered in this week (CMS Report, 1946, p. 322). There were 17 decisions which they intended to carry out. Some of them were they will try to make their homes clean and happy, attendance at Church must be regular and punctual and Friday and Saturday shall be kept as days of purification and general preparation for Sunday… etc.’ (CMS Report, 1943-44, p. 226).
Charity training was another one; and in order to teach the people the habit of giving, the missionaries started a poor fund. The aim of this was for training our people in the grace of Christian charity ‘ (The Missionary Register, 1840, p. 469). The Missionaries formed a fund for the betterment of widows and made others contribute to this fund (BGEM Report, 1886, p. 48).
The lady missionaries started a women’s bank to cultivate the habit of saving among women. It was reported: A women’s bank was a new venture, but was not a great success’ (CMS Report, 1926, p. 158).
The missionaries conducted several programmes in different centres to give leadership training to women. (CMS Report 1946, pp. 323-324) reported: `Conferences for women leaders of the pastorates have been held in nine centres this year, throughout the diocese and they were nearly always arranged by the women of the place chosen, with pastor and his wife’.
Missionaries formed a number of women’s organisations. The aim of Girls’ Guild was to help girls in their teens’ (CCMS Report, 1938, p. 256). This Girls’ Guild was organised for unmarried girls between 13 and 15. Another organisation which was started was the Kerala Christian Girls’ Union, for girls between the school age and the time when they were eligible to join the Mothers’ Union (CMS Report, 1933, p. 274). The women missionaries organised Mothers’ Union also. Later, it spread to most districts. The three rules of this organisation were to live a clean life at home, to attend church regularly and to help other women to follow Christ (CMS Report, 1926, p. 158). Through this organisation the missionaries fought against immorality, low standard of living and indifference to girls’ education. Savika Sanghom was another organisation for outcaste Christian women to serve among themselves. As a result of the activities of its organisation they taught themselves reading, writing, cooking, washing, sewing and account keeping. This was like an adult education class and it prompted the development of education among women. The lady missionaries formed anther organisation called Bathel Band. The Bathel Band moved from one place to another and taught the girls and women reading, writing, arithmetic and practical household activities (CMS report. 1926, p. 161).
Thus the Missionaries launched a series of formal and other educational activities in Travancore and Cochin. They combined formal education with vocational skills. When the LMS Missionaries began their educational work in Kerala, the Government of Travancore was least interested in the education of females. It was their educational activities that inspired the Government to enter this field. The Basel Evangelical Society had a short span of activity compared with that of the other two societies. While laying special emphasis on religious and spiritual matters, the society took secular aspects of life seriously. Its emphasis on compulsory education to Christian children up to the age of 14 and the establishment of schools in every congregation was a novel idea in the field of education. These activities contributed to the development of women’s education and emancipation of women in Malabar and the modernisation of society.
Impact of the Educational activities of the Missionaries on the Society of Kerala
The activities of the London Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society and the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society in the field of education, especially girls’ education, brought about tremendous changes in the society of Kerala, particularly in the eradication of social evils that prevailed then, such as untouchability, sati, and devadasi system.
The missionaries started their work in the field of women’s education at a time when there was great prejudice against the same. In some places, even at the beginning of the 20 century there were people who asked: “Why should we have our females introduced to reading and needle work? If they are able to work, and to work in the fields, it is enough. All the other arts are useless for them” (BGEM Report, 1912, p. 49). But after half a century, girls’ education came to be greatly valued by the people and the rulers, and in 1864, the Travancore Government itself started its first government girls’ school in Kerala.
As a result of the activities of the missionaries there was a rapid spread of education among the people of Kerala. In the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century, education and status of women were at the lowest ebb in Kerala. Munro reported that in -I 822, in Madras, including Malabar, 5480 girls attended the indigenous primary schools as against 1,78.630 boys (Report of the National Committee on Women’s Education, 1959 p. 13). According to the Census of Madras Presidency (1874, p. 19), in 1871 the total population of Malabar was 22,61,250 and those who were able to read and write was only 5.3 percent. In Malabar alone 262 out of 1,00,000 girls were at school in 1871 (Census of Madras Presidency, 1874, p. 192). According to the Report on the Census of Travancore, in 1871, 93 women of the hundreds of thousands of Ezhavas were able to read and write but no female from the Pulayas could do so. In the higher castes 98 out of every 100 females were illiterate. In the entire state, only 3,452 females among the Hindus and 86 among the Muslims could read and write.
As a result of the educational activities of the missionary societies, there was tremendous increase in the number of girl scholars. In 1946-47, there were altogether 1056 educational institutions in Cochin and 4076 institutions in Travancore. On the whole there were 2,54,714 pupils (1,44,670 boys 1,10,047 girls) in Cochin and 10,91,766 pupils (6,23,399 boys and 4,68,367 girls) in Travancore. In the field of higher education also, this change could be seen. By 1946-47 there were more than 11 colleges in Kerala. The total number of students in these colleges was 6199, including 1316 women students. In 1947 the number of literates per 100 of the population was 47. The percentage of literacy for males in Kerala was 58.1 and for females 36.0 (Travancore Administration Report, 1947, p. 3). Hence there was tremendous increase in the percentage of female literacy due to the efforts of the missionaries and the government. According to the census of India (1953, pp. 344-350) Kerala had the highest female literacy, 45.56 percent as against the 15.33 percent of India as a whole. Another notable feature in the field of women’s education in Kerala was the rapid progress made by Christian women in education during this period. Against the total population of Travancore, native Christian women enjoyed the highest percentage of literacy. This trend was seen in later years also.
The missionaries regarded it their duty to spread education in English and in regional languages and enlighten people (Missionary Conference, 1920, p. 368). The education imparted by the missionaries created an intelligentsia with more knowledge about European civilisation. The waves of the new educational system helped to usher a new era of thinking based on nationalism and liberation. Besides, the scientific method and the critical spirit acquired through English education made them question the old and degrading superstitions.
People regarded English education as the only means of obtaining high employment in government service. Attracted by several motives, the Travancore Government also started its first School, the Raja’s Free school (the present University College) with the help of J. Robert, an English teacher at the Nagercoil seminary. The missionaries opened a large number of vocational schools too. The vocational education given to girls, helped them to get employment and security. It also helped a large number of girls to gain freedom from slavery.
The traditional caste-ridden society of Kerala underwent significant changes as a result of the activities of the missionaries. It was the missionaries who raised their voice against the social inequalities and evils of the caste system. They made use of education as a powerful instrument for breaking the stronghold of caste system. The Evangelical Magazine (1845, pp. 216-217) reported: “In the English classes, there are several students from the high castes; among these are three young Brahmins and it is interesting to see how caste, customs and rules are laid aside – all, from the Brahmin to pariah, sitting together without the slightest objection.”
The early decades of the 20th century witnessed the beginning of powerful social reform movements in Kerala. For example, the Sambavas (Parayas) of Nagercoil revolted in 1893 for their rights (LMS Report, 1893, p. 145). This kind of awareness was seen among the people of higher castes also. Mateer (1883, p. 184) observed: “Some of the more enlightened Nairs are now beginning to realise their degradation and to rebel against the Brahmanical tyranny and absurd and demoralising laws under which they are placed”.
When the slaves were denied the freedom to educate their children, the missionaries were courageous enough to admit the slave children in their schools. e missionaries raised their voice for these unfortunate people when they were being bought and sold in the markets like cattle. Because of their activities, livery was abolished in Travancore and Cochin (Kusuman :1973, p. 54). Mrs. Mault has pointed out: “We have forwarded a resolution that each girl by her own industry shall purchase her freedom before she leaves the school” (Letter Mrs. Mault, EM, 1831, p. 31).
The progress of avarnas in Kerala was largely due to the work of the missionaries. When the doors of the educational institutions were closed to the missionaries admitted them in their schools. Education enlightened se people and they began to fight for their rights. Untouchability and unapproachability were no longer practised and the outcastes and lower castes equality and freedom. Peet, one of the missionaries has pointed out: , “I to report […] after more than twenty years of struggling […] the Dewan lately obtained a legal status for my people. They have now equal rights of king on the public road…..” (CMS proceedings, 1861, p. 142). This change in attitude inspired the Hindu leaders to take up the issue against untouchability in the course of time. The Vaikom Satyagraha and the Guruvayur Satyagraha were the two great movements in this direction (Mathew and Thomas 1967, p. 144). The Temple Entry Proclamation of Travancore marked the climax of this struggle. As a result, all the temples were opened to the lower classes. Another issue was the collection of poll tax which was levied on all members of the lower classes 16 to 60 years of age. Munro and the missionaries argued for the abolition of this unjust tax. By the proclamation of the Queen of Travancore, poll tax and other unjust taxes were abolished in 1815 (Agar: 1903, p. 573).
Joint family system. `marumakkathayam’ (matrilineal system) and `samb’anda’ system were some of the social practices of the 18th century. The traditional ‘marumakkathayarn’ in course of time gave way to ‘makkathayam’ among several communities. The `sambanda’ system disappeared and marriage alliances became permanent in those communities. Some other social evils like Sati, Pulapedi and Smartha were also eradicated. Polyandry or the plurality of husbands which existed even in the early decades of the 20th century disappeared. The Census of India (1953, p. 73) has recorded: “Polygamy is fast disappearing due to spread of education and social and economic changes”.
In the past, women led a secluded life. Girls were not allowed to move about unprotected. According to the CMS Report (1935, p. 301) “Girls have not had such liberty in the past, but now they have with education”. One of the references in the CMS Report (1925, p. 187) regarding the progress of women, is to a Christian lady who had graduated from Madras University and went on to hold the position of the Head of the Medical Department under Travancore Government, with about a hundred qualified doctors and hospitals under her administration. Thus as a result of the educational facilities provided by the missionaries and with the liberation from various social and cultural limitations, the downtrodden people including women made tremendous progress in their social and cultural life.
The missionaries and the English education had a share in spreading western education in Kerala. The English educated are “Partly westernised in the language they used and in the books they read” (Sharma: 1956, p. 635). According to George (1972, p. 237) “In our food habits, dress, games and other aspects of social life we imitated the west”. Another interesting matter was that many native Christians adopted English and Biblical names.
One of the social evils which enslaved the women of Kerala was child marriage. To make matters worse, the remarriage of widows was totally; prohibited, especially among the upper castes. Wherever Christianity gained influence and education spread, the missionaries forced the parents to allow their daughters to remain unmarried at least till the age of 14 (Abbs: 1870, p.169). The society was also aware of the evil of child marriage and wanted legislation against it (The Pioneer Mail, 1914, p. 4) As a result the Child Marriage Restraint Act (Act No. XIX of 1929) and the Child Marriage Restraint (Second Amendment) Act, 1938 were passed by the British Government of India in 1929 and 1938 respectively (Chand and Sarin: 1939, pp. 25, 92). Consequently, child marriage became rare among Christians and other communities and the age of marriage was raised in the society.
According to the Census of India (1953, p. 52) “Boys below fifteen marry very rarely. The percentage of married girls below 15 is also small – 2 or 3 percent before 1931 and negligible in 1951”. Another change was that some girls continued to learn even after their marriage. The BQEM Report (1894, p. 92) has pointed out that they were able to add a fourth standard and succeeded in removing the prejudice against married girls attending school. In some places in Kerala young ladies refused to marry. In 1932 the missionaries reported: “Our young teachers are refusing to marry, or else putting it off until it is too late “ (CMS Report, 1933, p. 280). This was a new trend which was due to the influence of women’s education.
The results of the fertility enquiry showed that the birth rates for the decades 1921 to 1930, 1931 to 1940, 1941 to 1950 were 37.2, 36.3 and 35.0 respectively (Census of India, 1953, p. 74). Another interesting feature of the maternity pattern in the state was “Ninety-four percent of the mothers had their first maternity before they were 25, 44 percent of mothers had their first maternity after their twentieth year….” (Census of India, 1951, p. 70). Another characteristic of fundamental importance was seen in the sex ratio in Travancore-Cochin – 1008 females for every 1000 males. The ratio was steadily increasing from decade to decade (Census of India, 1951, p. 81).
The missionaries encouraged remarriage of young widows. In 1873 Shesha Iyengar, a Brahmin pleader in Nagercoil arranged the remarriage of his daughter who became a widow at the age of thirteen (The Indian Evangelical Review, 1878, p. 128). The missionaries gave enough publicity to this matter through their magazines. With the support of the missionaries, an organisation by name `Vidhava Vivaha Sangh’ (Society for Widow Remarriage) was formed for encouraging widow remarriage (The Indian Evangelical Review, 1939, p. 89). Consequently the number of widowed and divorced persons became less and less. There were no widows below 15 years. (Census of India, 1953, p. 73).
Moreover, instead of enforced widowhood, the missionaries tried to instruct the society to care for the widows. Mrs Lewis formed a “widow’s fund to provide some aid to poor widows in the Nagercoil mission, a class of persons much despised, neglected and often ill-treated in this country” (Written Report`; 1851).
Above all, the lifestyle of the widows began to change for the better. For example, a lady named Saramma had two children and she became a widow at 17. Hester Smith (1976, pp. 25-26), the headmistress at Christava Mahilalayam has reported: “She wisely decided to continue her education and we were able to receive her little Kitty and Kunju as boarders” – later Saramma took her degree at Women’s Christian College and made a successful career as a teacher, bringing up her two children.
Education helped the people to develop a sense of decency in everything,, including dress. Most of the converts in Kerala had been denied the freedom to cover the upper part of their bodies. The missionaries, especially the lady missionaries, taught the newly converted women to cover their breasts. Women of converted Christians began to wear jackets and upper-clothes. This was strongly opposed by the higher caste Hindus. They stripped the women off their jackets and burnt down houses, chapels and many schools (Report of Baylis, 1859, p. 4). This led to communal riots. These riots were collectively known as Upper-cloth Revolt. Revolts took place all over South Travancore (Report of Baylis, 1859, p. 4).
On 2nd February, 1829, the Queen of Travancore made a proclamation which stated : “[…] the Shanars have no authority to wear upper cloth and are hereby prohibited from doing so…. I never can allow converts to any faith whatsoever, or any other person to infringe upon the customs of the higher castes of the country as established by ancient usage’ (Translation of the’ Proclamation by Her Highness the Queen of Travancore, 1829).
The Madras Government and the British authorities continued to express their desire to the Maharaja, with regard to the need of better legislation granting perfect freedom to the lower castes in the matter of dress (Letter, Maltby to Pycroft, MPP, 1860, p. 179). This pressure made the Travancore Government issue fresh legislation in 1865 granting this right to all the lower castes. In fact,’ it was the missionaries who taught the people to dress decently.
Though the missionaries undertook educational activities as an integral part of their work, their first and foremost objective was to convert people to Christianity. No doubt, the missionary activities led to the conversion of a large number of people to Christianity. Though the converts ranged from the highest savarnas to the lowest savarnas, most of the converted Christians were from underprivileged classes (CMS Report, 1925, p: 104).
`The CMS Mission of Help’ brought about important changes in the d, Syrian Church. There arose a reformed group among the Syrians who came to be known as the `Marthoma Church’. The missionaries also encouraged inter-caste marriage. The BGEM Report (1877, p. 80) pointed out that “even inter-caste marriage between Christians of different denominations is so common and so natural, that they are not even noticed as anything exceptional”.
The progress of Christianity and modern education led to the revival of Hinduism and imitation of Christian methods by other religious communities. An organisation called the Hindu Mission was formed in the early half of the 20th century to revive Hinduism (Church Missionary Outlook, 1938, p. 88).
The Missionaries gave great importance to religious and moral education in their schools and colleges. “Honesty in word and deed and faithfulness in performing duties….” (Fisher, 1985, p. 202) was valued and enforced by the missionaries. The ‘moral teaching’ of the missionaries was valued very much at by the Government also. For example, in 1861, “On Principles of Morality” was published by the missionaries in English. The Government translated this book into native language and used it in schools (Mateer: 1883, p. 399).
Parents appreciated the change in the behaviour of their sons and daughters. One Brahmin father observed: “[…] it is a strange thing but since the time my boy has been to your school, he is better, more obedient, more truthful and more upright than before” (BGEM Report, 1885, pp. 62-63).
Education helped the men and women of Kerala to fight against certain inequalities and to attain various rights. `Oozhiyam’ or personal gratuitous services and forced labour for government and for the people of the higher castes, had been prevalent in Kerala for a long time. During the 1840s the educated Christians began to resist it (LMS Report, 1842, p. 65). The Christians had the support of the missionaries. As a result, on August 7, 1893, the oozhiyam services were stopped permanently (Acts and Proclamations of Travancore, a 1948, p. 211).
Conventional ideas on the system of land tenure, inheritance, right to own property and houses were affected by the new ideas of equality received through education. The lower classes now got opportunities to own property and build houses of their own. One LMS missionary has pointed out: “I saw the newly built house of a Christian who was 15 years ago a slave, and the whole of his property then did not exceed three rupees. Now his landed property and cattle are worth more than Rs. 50” (Mateer: 1883, p. 312).
Parents in almost all ranks of life in Kerala intended their graduate sons and daughters to become wage earners (Women’s Christian College, 1935, p.1) According to the Census of India (1953, p. 70) : “With the break-up of the joint family system and spread of education, a change in the attitude towards the employment of women outside their houses has set in and the females have begun to seek employment in great numbers” Many women were engaged as teachers in schools run by the missionaries and by the government. Some were engaged in the public department, some in the lace industry, the embroidery industry, the weaving industry, the tile industry and a few in the political life of the country. By 1913 the Basel Mission was the largest single industrial entrepreneur in Malabar. Its weaving establishments and the factories employed 2500 Christians and 1000 non-Christians, the majority of whom were women (Fisher: 1985, p. 2002). Lace and embroidery industries provided employment facilities to a large number of women.
The Missionary schools produced eminent leaders who in course of time took an active part in the struggle for responsible government in Travancore, Cochin and Malabar regions. Through the influence of western education and enlightenment, several young men and a few young women participated in the political affairs of Kerala. In the 20th century several “women’s movements” were formed in Kerala for their self expression. As a result, Hepzibah, one of the lady teachers of the LMS and the first woman graduate from Nagercoil, was nominated to the then Legislative Assembly known as Sri Mulam Assembly. In 1933, Sri Mulam Assembly consisted of 70 male members and 2 women, of whom Hepzibah was one. Moreover, several women in Travancore., Cochin and Malabar began to participate in the public affairs of the country. Some of them joined the national struggle for independence, along with Mahatma Gandhi.
Another impact of education was the enfranchisement of women which they enjoyed from the first quarter of the 20th century. Around 1920s the Women Suffrage Movement started in India and achieved the political enfranchisement of women in four of its more progressive provinces and four states (India Year Book, 1924, p. 45). Among the four Indian states, Travancore was one and the first to grant that privilege. Cochin also had removed sex disqualification during this period. Thus education initiated by the missionaries had an important role in the shaping of the recent political history of Kerala and the participation of women in political affairs.
In examining the impact of the educational activities of the missionaries on various aspects of life, it can be concluded that women’s education was the most important fundamental factor which reshaped and modernised the life of women and society in Kerala. Earlier, woman’s temporal and spiritual destiny was not in her hands but in the hands of man. It was education which enhanced her social status and economic position. This unique achievement was not made overnight or even in a few years. It has a long historical past of around 130 years. Education, imparted to women by the missionaries of LMS, CMS and BEMS, brought about revolutionary changes in the life and society of Kerala-As a result, women and the downtrodden reached a level of human dignity and honour from a stage of dependency, insecurity and slavery. This helped the emergence of a new social order and cultural revival in Kerala in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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HEPSI GLADSTON. Distinguished scholar whose doctoral thesis “History and Development of Education of Women in Kerala” brought to light hitherto unnoticed details regarding the contributions of missionaries to the education of women in Kerala.