(Last Updated on : 06/09/2012)
Dr. Fisher was a kind-hearted liberal woman, a leader, and an eloquent preacher, who was deeply interested in the creative arts of villages and also in cottage industries. She was among those Americans who have taken a keen interest in freedom struggle of India
, in its progress and development. Though a very wealthy lady she was destined to illuminate the lives of people living in the suburbs of rural, uneducated India. She found it her mission to educate village women. She became a part and parcel of the people, even though she did not know their language, customs and beliefs. She charmed village women and they considered her as their benefactor and well wisher. She won their hearts, and became their true friend and comrade. They always looked upon her as a friend, guide and philosopher. She became their confidant and shared the thoughts of women sunken in ignorance, poverty, disease, sorrows and worries. She wanted the village women to enjoy the bounties of nature and create in them an aesthetic sense. She wanted the illiterate villagers to be educated. She was of the view that illiteracy was the root of all social evils and she put forward the mission "Literacy for all". To fulfil this aim, she established the Literacy House at Lucknow
, the India Literacy Board and a Publication Section She described the process of learning as an act of willing participation in a good thing, not just a boring and detest-able piece of drudgery. It was her dream to educate the masses of India.
Her dreams yielded wonderful results when the Literacy Board was established. It diversified into many branches and collaborated and coordinated in many fields with various government and non-government voluntary organizations in India and abroad. This helped in supporting an integrated literacy, vocational and youth activity programme.
Early Life of Dr. Welthy H. Fisher
Welthy H. Fisher was born on 18 September 1879 in New York. She was married to Bishop Fred Fisher. She was a faithful, deeply loving and caring wife. Her life was tragic as she lost her husband in the prime of her youth after which she had to lead a lonely life. Unable to bear her solitary life, she set out on a tour around the globe. She had deep faith in God, in His work and in Nature. She was a nature lover like Wordsworth. So she advised village women to take adequate care of the environment, give up unhygienic practices and make the best use of available waste products locally. She loved orchards, trees, snow-covered mountains, lakes, valleys smiling with flowers and above all, the people. To her, they were the manifestations of f God. She adored Rabindranath Tagore
and derived perennial spiritual strength from his works. The battle for freedom of India by Mahatma Gandhi
and his strict adherence to the principles of love, truth and Ahimsa inspired her.
Meeting of Dr. Welthy H. Fisher with Mahatma Gandhi
She met Mahatma Gandhi and received her last benediction from him. It was he who inspired her to go to villages. He said - "Go to the villages and help them. India is in the village." On her return from India, Dr. Fisher recognized the bitter truth that almost all of India's villages were deeply submerged in abject poverty and misery. Hunger and unemployment stalked the villages. Utter illiteracy engulfed the villages and the people were groping in the darkness of illiteracy. She was convinced that without literacy, the village folk could never be rescued from the clutches of the moneylenders, zamindars and the indifferent administration in the form of the police and the patwari.
Welfare Activities by Dr. Welthy H. Fisher
Welthy Fisher imparted a new technique to NSS girls for carrying out her difficult mission of making village women literate. Her lessons in the art of communication were to mix freely and get totally involved with the target population in all their social activities so that the subject of literacy may not look dull or too formidable to village women. . She even learnt some Hindi so that she could communicate better with the people. She was the first to design and prepare literacy kits, complete with blackboards and hurricane lamps. She also started mobile libraries in trunks loaded on bicycles, so as to reach distant villages. She was a great motivator and her workers became most talented and devoted. Her result--oriented programmes were highly fruitful. She knew that literacy for backward villages, though a wild dream must become a reality. The villages were class and caste ridden. Only the upper castes were supposed to read and write. The lower caste people were not allowed any opportunity to go to school, or temple or to a place of learning. The zamindars and the moneylenders kept them under permanent serfdom. Even after independence, the efforts of Government of India
to promote literacy were outstripped by the population explosion. At such a crucial time Welthy Fisher established literacy centres in Kolkata
and Lucknow. She also demonstrated that NGOs could produce concrete results where the government mechanism fails. Jan Shiksha Nilayams were also established to work as centres for continuing education. It is therefore obvious that the seeds sown by a great visionary have sprouted far and wide.
In her scheme, literacy and better living had to complement each other. Freedom without literacy would mean nothing for India. It was necessary to unite the people of various communities and remove suspicion and mistrust. Minimal necessities like smokeless chulas, pedestals around wells, sanitary latrines and a clean healthy environment were pre-requisites to the three Rs (Reading, writing and arithmetic). She was of the view that only poor villagers could change the shape of India, not potentates and power brokers. She said;" Lighting One Candle Is Better Than Cursing The Darkness."
She belongs to the rank of those divinely inspired souls who rejected a life of ease to bring help and relief to the deprived and suffering mankind. Though a wealthy American citizen she was destined to live in the villages of India, educating and enlightening the downtrodden masses groping in the darkness of illiteracy.