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Margaret Elizabeth Noble | Sister Nivedita | Discovery Publisher
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Sister Nivedita

Margaret Elizabeth Noble


Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone on the 28th of October 1867. Her parents were Samuel Richmond Noble and Mary Isabella Hamilton. As a young woman, Margaret had a strong devotion to her faith. She trained as a teacher and began her first teaching post in Keswick in 1884. Margaret worked in a number of orphanages and poor mining towns. This gave her a keen sense of the importance of charitable acts, something which would stay with her for her entire life. As she progressed in her career, Margaret became aware of the Swedish and German models of education whereby children are taught from a younger, pre-school age. She became involved in the establishment of the ‘New Education’ and in 1892 established her own school where the focus would be on learning through play instead of the more rigid methods of formal education.

A devout Christian from youth, Margaret embarked upon a long and winding quest for truth. It was whilst on this spiritual and intellectual mission that she discovered the teachings of Buddhism. She became fascinated by eastern religious teachings and read deeply on the subject. In 1895, she met with Swami Vivekananda, a prominent Indian member of the Hindu faith. Through his teachings she set herself on a path that would change the course of her life. Swami Vivekananda saw great potential in Margaret, as he believed that India could only prosper through education, especially that of women. He felt that Margaret was the right person to deliver this education. Margaret left her entire life behind and travelled to India, arriving in Calcutta on the 22nd of January 1898. In the early stages of her time in India she was accompanied by Swami Vivekananda who educated her on Indian history and customs. Two months later she took her vows of Brahmacharya and took on the name Sister Nivedita, which means ‘the dedicated one’.


Sister Nivedita travelled extensively throughout India, connecting with the people and learning more and more about the land that had so deeply enamoured her, but it was in Calcutta that she would do her most important and memorable work. In November 1898 Sister Nivedita established a girls school in Calcutta. She also went directly to the homes of the poorer girls so as to ensure that their family’s financial status did not result in them being denied an education. Though she was often met with discouragement from male family members, Sister Nivedita persisted and continued to teach the girls of Calcutta. She financed the school herself through selling her books and speaking at conferences.

In 1899 India was the scene of a catastrophic plague which killed about 10 million people. Calcutta was not spared the effects of the disease as it spread through the country. During the epidemic Sister Nivedita dedicated herself to the relief cause by nursing the sick and working tirelessly to clean the city. She encouraged others to help in whatever way that they could and wrote to newspapers in England to spread awareness of the epidemic and request relief.


Sister Nivedita died on the 13th of October 1911 at the age of 44. She had dedicated her entire adult life to the spread of education and the betterment of life in Calcutta.