Begum Sufia Kamal

  • Born: 20 June 1911, Shaestabad, Barisal
  • Died: 20 November 1999, Dhaka (aged 88)
  • Profession: Bengali poet, litterateur, organizer, feminist and social activist
  • Recognition: Bangla Academy Award 1962 and Begum Rokeya Medal (1996). Known lovingly as 'Khalamma' (Aunt)
  • National contribution: Buried with full state honors, the first woman in Bangladesh to receive this honour.
  • Hasani? Didn't know that! First Bengali Muslim female member of Indian Women Federation (1931)
  • Work include: Mrttikar Ghran (The Fragrance of Earth)
    Ekattarer Diary (Diary of '71)
    Benibinyas Samay To Ar Nei (No More Time for Braiding Your Hair)
    Ekale Amader Kal (In This Time, Our Time)


  1. Early life, education, family life
  2. Career
  3. Founder of 'Kachi-Kanchar Mela' (1956), founder of Chhayanaut (1961), founder of Mahila Sangram Parisad, Leftist but not strictly political
  4. Literary prowess, awards galore
  5. First Bengali woman to receive state funeral
  6. Legacy I:
  7. Legacy II: what others say about Sufia Kamal...

Timeline of few major events in Begum Sufia Kamal's life

  • 1918 - Met Begum Rokeya for the first time in Kolkata (then Calcutta)
  • 1923 - Married maternal cousin Syed Nehal Hossain. Published first short story, 'Sainik Badhu' (The Soldier Bride)
  • 1926 - First child Amena Kahnar born. Saogat publishes her first poem, 'Basanti' (Of Spring)
  • 1928 - Credited with being first Bengali Muslim woman to fly in an aeroplane
  • 1929 - Member of Begum Rokeya's Anjuman-i-Khawatin-i-Islam
  • 1931 - Became first Muslim woman to become a member of Indian Women's Federation
  • 1932 - Death of first husband
  • 1933 - Became a school teacher with the Calcutta Corporation
  • 1937 - First collection of stories, Keyar Kanta (The Thorn of Flowers), published
  • 1938 - First anthology of poems, Sanjher Maya (The Twilight Illusion), published with the blessings of Tagore. Second marriage to freedom fighter Kamaluddin Khan and since then known as Sufia Kamal
  • 1940 - First son Shahed Kamal born. Participates in Anti-British movement
  • 1946 - Ran a sanctuary at the Lady Brabourne College for the communal riot victims of Calcutta. Met Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for first time. Started a number of magazines
  • 1947 - First editor of Shaptahik Begum, a weekly women's magazine, Met Leela Nag Roy in Dhaka and becomes member of Shanti Committee
  • 1948 - Became chief of East Pakistan Women's Committee
  • 1949 - Bought our 'Sultana' weekly magazine jointly with Jahanara Arzoo
  • 1950 - Led the Anti-communal Riots Committee during the 1950 Dhaka riots. Daughter Sultana Kamal born
  • 1951 - Established the East Pakistan Child Protection Society. Also took up the vice-chair of the National Literature Society
  • 1952 - Pioneer organiser during Ekushey February. Played active role throughout Bhasha Andolon (Language Movement)
  • 1954 - Established 'Wari Women Samity' and elected first President of the Samity
  • 1955 - Organised the first protest by housewives against rising food prices
  • 1956 - Established Kachi Kanchar Mela, a national children's organisation, at her own residence
  • 1960 - Became the chief of the Tagore Centenary Celebrations Committee
  • 1962 - Led the move to establish cultural organisations to propagate Tagore culture
  • 1965 - Was at the forefront of the anti-Ayub Khan movement, which turned into a mass uprising in 1969
  • 1969 - Became chairperson of the Women's Action Committee
  • 1970 - Chief of the Women's Committee
  • 1971 - Stayed away from all activities after the 1971 military crackdown and also refused to sign an endorsement of Pakistan and its armed actions despite threat to her life. After liberation, presided over the first public meeting at the Martyrs' Monument. Inaugurated the first television programme in independent Bangladesh.
  • 1977 - Husband Kamaluddin died
  • 1980 - Got actively involved in the anti-martial law movement and moved close to the Awami League. Became member of the committee to "Try the killers and Rapists of 1971"
  • 1990 - Was at the forefront of the anti-Ershad/martial law agitation, even leading a procession when a curfew was on