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Pandita Ramabai Saraswathi: Making of a Social Entrepreneur


  • Udaya Kumar Irvathur

    (University College Mangalore)

  • N.K. Rajalakshmi

    (University College Mangalore)


After the ingress of imperialism through colonization, Indian society underwent transition. Transition to modernity though opened up new avenues for the middle class women by enabling them to opt for English education and selective participation in the public sphere, there was hardly any escape from the broader patriarchal and caste dominated social design. An exploration into the social history of the 19th century India unfolds the intricate designs within the nation’s social fabric. The process of modernization opened new opportunities to the educated Indian men especially drawn from the dominant castes. These opportunities were in the form of ascribed status created at the bottom of the pyramids of power structure. Changing positions of men in the process of modernization called for realignment in the role of women within the family and society. These new roles for women necessitated the acquisition of certain skills, which was readily provided to them through English education. This also opened up a little space for women, which was not available to them in the system that prevailed till then. Pandita Ramabai Saraswathi was able to appropriate this little space that was opened for women. She had an in depth knowledge of the Hindu Religion, the gap between the practice and its philosophy, as reflected by the condition of women in the Indian society. Ramabai stands apart from many of her contemporaries, in a number of ways. This is the reason why, we choose to consider her a social entrepreneur of the period in which she lived. Accordingly, the term social entrepreneur is used to signify the leadership taken by Ramabai, the courage she has shown to accept the challenge, the manner in which she organized her whole project, and addressed the social problems confronted by women of her caste. Therefore, it was thought necessary to contextualize the situation within which Ramabai was driven towards the achievement of a social goal. The term social entrepreneur is of recent origin but the spirit of social enterprise is not new. It is not easy to frame a definition that would encompass the varied entrepreneurial ventures undertaken to achieve a social goal all over the world. It has to be understood as a particular concept constructed within a particular context. Even though the concept of social entrepreneur is mostly in circulation in the capitalist economy, it embodies features that are quite distinct from the reformers and business entrepreneurs. The paper attempts to make a contextualized space-time study of Ramabai as a social entrepreneur.

Suggested Citation

  • Udaya Kumar Irvathur & N.K. Rajalakshmi, 2010. "Pandita Ramabai Saraswathi: Making of a Social Entrepreneur," Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education, Institute of Economic Sciences, issue 1-2, pages 48-70.
  • Handle: RePEc:ibg:jwejou:y:2010:i:1-2:p:48-70

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    Colonization; reform; women’s emancipation; empowerment women’s education; social entrepreneurship;

    JEL classification:

    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • B54 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Feminist Economics


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