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A Visionary and a Pioneer Muslim Women’s Educator
February 26, 1903—February 26, 1994


Annie (Hannah) Samson was born in Poona, India, to Abraham Samuel Samson Killekar and his wife, Sarah, daughter of Khan Sahib Shalom (Bapuji) Israel Wargharkar,* formerly the Deputy Collector of Janjira State† and its Prime Minister. The family resided in Poona in a bungalow adjacent to the Ohel David Synagogue built by the David Sassoon family.

Annie distinguished herself at St. Helena’s Convent and then later at the Deccan College in Poona, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was awarded a scholarship to pursue her studies in the United Kingdom, where she earned her Bachelor of Teaching degree. Annie was among the first Bene Israel (and one of the first Indian) women‡ to be sent to the UK for higher education. After graduating, Annie went to France to study French, but unfortunately she soon had to return home to provide for her eight siblings§ and mother because of the sudden early death of her father. She took care of her mother throughout her remaining life. Upon her return, Annie took a job at her alma mater (St. Helena’s Convent) and worked there for a couple of years, teaching English and other subjects to the higher classes.

In 1937, the Anjuman Islam Foundation was interested in establishing a school for Muslim girls called the Anjuman Islam Girls School, which was an unheard of proposition in those days. Due to her distinguished educational career, Annie was recruited to be the founding principal of this new futuristic school. The school was established in Bombay on Belasis Road, and the foundation provided Annie and her family a residence within the confines of the school property. Muslim parents were inherently conservative in those days, and because of their reluctance to give girls an education, the school started with just four girls. In the following years, Annie would go to the homes of the Muslim families to convince and encourage them to send their girls to the school. After 30 years of Annie’s service, the school grew to be a major educational institution, with 3000 students in two shifts. Annie’s dedicated efforts led to a tremendous boost in the social emancipation of Muslim women in India. Many of her students became leading doctors, lawyers, educators, and successful professionals.

When Annie started the school, she placed special emphasis on providing a religious foundation by daily prayer service and teaching the Quran to the girls. In addition to traditional subjects, Annie also emphasized domestic science, handicraft (she was an expert in needlework and embroidery), and home economics. The Anjuman Islam Foundation Board of Directors was pleased with her achievements and those of the Muslim girls. However, in 1948 (a time when many of the Muslim community in Bombay were against the establishment of the State of Israel) there were calls to terminate her service. The Board of Directors steadfastly refused and declared the achievements of her dedicated service to the Muslim community.

During the course of her tenure as the founding principal, Annie received many dignitaries as her guests. They were all impressed by this unique experiment in interfaith understanding and tolerance, where a member of one community is the pioneer in the emancipation of the women of another. All through her residence on the premises of the Anjuman Islam Girls School, Annie was a staunch practicing Jew who had a Mezuzah on her door and held prayers in her home every Friday in Hebrew.

Upon retirement, Annie returned to Poona for a short while and then went back to Bombay. A year after celebrating her ninetieth birthday and on the exact date of her ninety-first birthday, Annie passed away peacefully. Muslim women owe so much to Annie for their emancipation. May God bless the soul of this enlightened being.

*Title Bestowed upon him in 1888 by The British India Government
†An erstwhile Muslim State in the south eastern part of Bombay on the west coast of mainland India
‡It was only about 20 years prior to her birth, that Bene Israel girls were given the opportunity of going to school and getting an education
§Vice Admiral Benjamin Abraham Samson Killekar was one of her siblings

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The Family of Abraham Samson Killekar (Annie is seated on the ground in the front middle)


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Nissim Moses-Hon. President Bene Israel Heritage Museum & Genealogical Research Center


Courtesy of

Mary Selby, Annie Samson's sister


Special thanks to

Robin Fayman for editing

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