Biography of Shoilabala Das

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Indian Freedom Fighter Shoilabala Das Biography

The first woman Municipal Commissioner of Cuttack, Shoilabala was a born freedom fighter who had great determination.

Shoilabala Das was the first woman Municipal Commissioner of Cuttack. She was the adopted daughter of Orissa`s famous politician Madhusudan Das. She was a very hardworking person and a born freedom fighter who had great determination, impulsiveness and enthusiasm.

Shoilabala Das always fought firmly for a cause and has never been defeated. She could never tolerate any sort of injustice. She took up the task of improving girls` education in the State. She had an acid tongue and spoke firmly to anyone without fear. During the freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi asked Shoilabala to do him a `favour` by introducing `charkha` to the women of Orissa.

With folded hands she said that she do not believe in `charkha` and it would never bring salvation to India or solve its economic problems. Even in the presence of Mahatmaji, she was firm and frank in expressing her opinion. She even refused to wear khadi when Gandhiji told her.

Shoilabala Das had a bold, fearless, assertive personality and a sharp mind. She headed several institutions and participated in the activities of various social organizations.
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Shoilabala was born on 1875 as the daughter of Ambica Charan Hazra and Prasanna Mayee Hazra. She was the eldest among the five children. As the eldest child she enjoyed great authority over the younger ones. She appeared to be a rebel in her childhood and her mother`s attempts to train the child were in vain.

Shoilabala Das  was always found of playing with boys, unlike other girls of her age. She admits that all her life she liked boys more than girls and men more than women.

Shoilabala Das  father`s dear friend Madhusudan Das and his wife, who were a childless couple liked her very much and desired to adopt her but her mother was against their proposal. After a few years when Prasanna Mayee died, the girl was finally adopted by Madhusudan Das who, by then, had become a widower.

Madhusudan Das was an important political leader of Orissa. He was rich and famous. Going into such a rich house as a daughter strengthened Shoilabala`s personality. In his big palatial house her word used to be the command.

Shoilabala Das  studied in a co-education English medium school. The childless widower, Madhusu-dan Das, loved her so dearly that he never bothered to make sure that the girl behaved in a way befitting her gender. She did whatever she liked and ruled over her foster father`s house.

Shoilabala Das also brought her four younger brothers and sisters to live in her foster father`s big house. After passing her matriculation examinations, she got admission to the Ravenshaw Boys` College in Cuttack. In the college Shoilabala was very different from other girls.

Instead of mixing with the girls she mixed with boys. She was also quite outspoken and always asked blunt questions to anyone and everyone.

Shoilabala went to Cambridge to take a course in Teachers` Training. After her return she took active interest in her father`s work. She became a devoted worker of the Utkal Union Conference founded by her father. The girl who earlier ruled her father`s household now started ruling his political world.

Shoilabala Das  became his best political adviser. The Governor of the Province made her father the Minister of Health. A few years later, he re-signed from his post at her instance. Many of her father`s well-wishers had blamed his spoilt foster daughter for leading him to such a decision.
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After her father`s death, Shoilabala donated his pala-tial house, `Madhu Smriti`, to an educational trust and the `Shoilabala Women`s College` was started in that building while his library was donated to the Orissa High Court.

Shoilabala Das  was appointed as the Honorary Magistrate in 1925. And later she became a member of Orissa`s Public Service commission. When she was invited by the government to attend the Female Education Conference in Ranchi she put forward the idea that Indian women should be sent to England to be trained as Inspectresses.

Nobody at the conference could understand why she insisted on Indian women as Inspec-tresses when India had enough number of white Inspec-tresses.

Finally, Shoilabala blurted out boldly that she insisted on having Indian inspectresses, as they would not have an innate hatred for the coloured people.

Shoilabala Das words sounded like a “bombshell” and her view was accepted without any further discussion. In her late seventies she became an M.P. and came to be known as the “grandmoth-er of the House.