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Malence, Hanah Kathrin


Malence, Hanah Kathrin (1826-1861) Christian preacher, Bangla prose writer and proponent of female education. Her actual name was Hanah Kathrin Lakruwa, was born in Kolkata on 1 July 1826. Her father Reverend Fran'oise Lakruwa was a French citizen who came to Kolkata in 1821 as part of a London-based missionary society to preach Christianity. During the childhood of Hanah Kathrin, there was no school in Kolkata for girls' education. So she took her early education from her mother and learnt the local dialect of Bangla from the domestic servants. When the Christian missionaries opened a new branch at Bhabanipur, they started a girls' school there. Hanah Kathrin used to teach Bangla at this school and teach the female domestic servants at home. Later, it became a regular school.

In 1841 she went to England with her parents, and studied there for eighteen months under the supervision of a woman named Mrs. Ramsay. She got married to a missionary worker named Mr. J. Malence on 19 June in 1845, and thus she had her surname 'Malence'. She was involved in the running of the school even after her marriage. Though she was a missionary school teacher, she inspired her students to understand and love local culture and customs. Mainly through her initiative, in 1855, a zenana mission was established in Kolkata, and its main activity was to teach upper-caste Hindu women in domestic imprisonment. Few years later in 1858 she had to accompany her husband to England. In 1961 she came back to Kolkata and took the responsibility of the girls' schools there. She cultivated the Bangla language until her death.

Malence was also a writer. Her fame as a writer spread after the publication of her first book. Her father was opposed to her literary practice and advised her to stop writing. However, her love of literature impelled her to write books again though she could not realise her desire completely.

The Christian Trust and Book Society of Kolkata published her book Phulmani o Karunar Bibaran in 1852. This book, written in simple and lucid prose, narrated the stories of less-educated Bengali Hindu families who were converted to Christianity. Its diction, character portrayal, subject matter and mood were characterized by the creative novel genre. Published six years before the appearance of Peary Chand Mitra's Alaler Gharer Dulal (1858), this book made a great contribution to the creation of Bangla literary history and to the development of Bangla prose. It has been translated into 12 provincial languages of India. Besides, she translated two English books into Bangla: Voyages and Travels of a Bible (1808) by Rev. John Campbell and Day Break in Britain. Another book by her is Bixwas Bijoy that deals with the nature of Christianity in Bengal (she wrote the first seven chapters of the book, and the surviving family members wrote the remaining chapters). She died in Kolkata on 21 November 1861. [Mobarra Siddiqa]