From Amma With Love

Education for Girls in Madurai

I’ve spoken previously about my hometown of Madurai and its unique character. One of the things that made Madurai wonderful were the educational institutions that helped to develop young women of character and learning.

When I was growing up in the 1940’s there were two private girls’ schools in Madurai which me and most of my friends attended. One was the Orlando Charles Pierce Memorial Women’s Higher Secondary School commonly called OCPM, founded by an American missionary from New England. As it was located in Chokikulam the suburb where we lived, my father chose this school for me and my younger sister. The alternative was St. Josephs Convent School, a Catholic school run by nuns situated in town which my older sister and many years later my children attended. In both schools, boys and girls were taught in the lower grades while the upper classes were reserved for girls only.

At the college level the only choice for young women used to be the coed American College, as Madurai College admitted only men. The lack of a women’s only program of higher education led both of the secondary schools I mentioned previously to open their own college for women in the city. OCPM founded Lady Doak College next to our high school while St. Joseph’s Convent developed Fatima College on the Western edge of the city.

Cofounding the college with Lady Doak was my old principal at OCPM, Miss Katie Wilcox. In that capacity, I remember her visiting my house many times to speak to my father, a true hands-on parent who despite his many commitments was ever vigilant in matters of his children’s education.

By the 1950’s there was even an option for women seeking a medical degree through study at Madurai Medical College which was associated with Erskine Hospital, the large government facility in town.

I’m proud to say that one of the educated women who helped to make the city a better place was my dear Aunt Singari, who had received her college diploma in Kerala. My Aunt was a city magistrate of Madurai and worked tirelessly doing charitable work for the welfare of women in the city.