The Abdullah Hall Years

The Women's College of the Aligarh Muslim University has a chequered history of engagement with feminism, as a former student recalls in a moment of poignant remembrance.

My engagement with feminism began in Women’s College, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and its female-only residential facility, Abdullah Hall. This was the first college to be set up for Muslim women in north India in 1904. Western education had just begun to grow in the far-off coastal areas of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras; Aligarh was a small, inland town.

At the time, this was not an easy task for Sheikh Abdullah and his wife, Wahid Jahan, who were the founders of the school. When the movement to educate girls was initiated, it was feared by both Hindus and Muslims in the town that this would lead to “immorality,” that once these girls were educated, they would start writing letters to their lovers and begin plotting meet-ups. Once it was set up, the college educated many notable alumni and produced great feminist writers such as Rashid Jahan and Ismat Chughtai.

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