Kamala Cornelius (Mrs. E.) Asirvatham Materials

Collection Overview

Language(s): Uncategorized (36)
Number of Items: 36
Item Types: Text (26), Photograph (9), Newspaper Clipping (1)

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About the Collection

Collection Description
The collection includes documentation of Kamala Cornelius Asirvatham’s education at Chatham University (then Pennsylvania College for Women) between 1914 and 1918 and her career in education and social service in India that followed. The collection includes photographs of Kamala Cornelius that appeared in the college yearbook and writings by Kamala Cornelius that were published in the student newspaper. The bulk of the collection consists of letters from Kamala Cornelius Asirvatham that were printed and distributed in the school’s alumnae magazine, the Alumnae Recorder. Letters from Kamala Cornelius Asirvatham’s describe her work as an educator, her perspective on life in India, and her social service work. Discussions of Kamala Cornelius Asirvatham’s family, including her husband and three daughters, are also represented in the collection.

Biographical History
Kamala Cornelius Asirvatham was born to Solomon Duraisamy Cornelius and Esther Rajanayagam and her family include sister to E. S. Appasamy, social worker and educator, and J. C. Kumarappa, economist. Kamala Cornelius graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the Pennsylvania College of Women (PCW, now Chatham University) in 1918. As a student, she was active in music clubs and the Y.M.C.A and she gave frequent lectures to women’s clubs about the lives of women in India.

Following graduation, Cornelius returned to India and held several positions as an educator including roles at the Women’s Christian College in Madras, at a United Free Church Mission of Scotland school in Madras, at a Hindu Girl’s School in Lucknow, and at an American Baptist Mission Girl’s High School in Nellore. In Nellore, she initiated a Girl Guide Movement that mirrored the work of the Girl Scouts in the United States.

Following her marriage in 1926 to Dr. Eddy Asirvatham, she became known as Mrs. E. Asirvatham. She worked with her husband to manage hostels for male and female Christian students of Lucknow University, promoting social service and holding evening classes for working men and women from all castes. Mrs. E. Asirvatham was active in Lucknow’s women’s clubs, authored a book of English and Indian recipes, and volunteered with the National Missionary Society. In addition to raising three daughters, Mrs. E. Asirvatham was active in social service in India including efforts to build a hospital ward in honor of her brother and to distribute food aid during times of economic struggle.

Mrs. E. Asirvatham retained close ties to her friends at the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University), and was a frequent contributor to the alumnae magazine, the Alumnae Recorder. Her contribution of gold bracelets to a college fundraiser is particularly notable, as Pennsylvania Female College alumnae cited her donation in establishing the “Kamala Cornelius Fund” in the building funds campaign of the 1920s.

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Related Materials

Collection Themes: Early Women Students (36)

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Administrative Information

Access & Use: Items in this SAADA collection are open for research. Items may not be sold or redistributed, copied or distributed as a photograph, electronic file, or any other media without express written consent from the copyright holder and the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). The user is responsible for all issues of copyright.

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