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
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.