Located on 19 Duff Street, St Margaret’s School is one of the oldest girls’ schools in Calcutta. With the aim of spreading formal education among the mostly illiterate women of Calcutta, the school started its journey in the year 1871, organized by the Scottish Missionaries, who came from Scotland and had formed a Scottish Ladies Association.
During the last leg of the 19th century, the condition of the women in India was pathetic. Practices like child marriage, known as Gouridaan in Bengali and polygamy, which mostly affected the women, were very much prevalent in the society. In fact, the system of child marriage and polygamy were complimentary and contributory, as a Hindu father was considered to have wronged his daughter if he fails to marry her before puberty. The system often resulted in the death of the newly married old husband or the unfortunate death of the minor girls due to pregnancy and childbirth. Apart from that, since their childhood, the girls were taught to obey the system and accept their destiny without questioning. They were deprived of formal education and in fact, the illiteracy was the main reason and the root of female abuse and oppression in India. The Christian Missionaries were convinced that Indian women desperately need to be educated for the awareness of their rights and the ability to voice their protest and solve their problems.
Under the above circumstances, St Margaret’s School, founded by the Scottish Missionaries, began working with only twenty girls and gradually blossomed into a leading academic institution for the girls of north Calcutta. The present building of the school, located on Duff Street was inaugurated on 16 November 1899, by Ms E White, the then Headmistress of the school. The initial building of the school, situated on Beadon Street, is now occupied by the Duff Hostel. Within a short time after the school shifted to the new building, St Margaret’s School got its recognition by the University of Calcutta in 1902 and started running successfully under the guidance of Ms. White. The School is equipped with an attached hostel, which accommodates around seventy girls. Apart from imparting education to the girls, the school also offers some extracurricular activities for the girls.
St Margaret’s School aims to educate mainly the local girls, coming mostly from the middle class, irrespective of cast and creed. Despite many difficulties, the school has always maintained a very good standard of education. It produces a cent percent academic result every year in the school leaving examinations. Some students have also received the National Scholarship.
Since the days of the Scottish Missionaries, the school has treaded a long way to celebrate its 125th Birth Anniversary in 1996, which was indeed a memorable milestone in the life of this heritage institution.