Janaki Agnes Penelope Majumdar

Other names: 

(nee Bonnerjee)


Newnham College, Cambridge, CB3 9DF
United Kingdom
52° 13' 42.168" N, 0° 4' 41.8332" E
Kidderpore House
8 Bedford Park
Croydon, CR0 2BS
United Kingdom
51° 22' 43.9104" N, 0° 5' 44.8764" W
Date of birth: 
26 Jun 1886
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1963
Precise date of death unknown: 

Janaki Agnes Penelope Majumdar was the daughter of the Hemangini and W. C. Bonnerjee, the first president of the Indian National Congress in December 1885. Born in Calcutta, in June 1886, Janaki, her mother and siblings settled in England from 1888. They soon moved into a house they named 'Kidderpore' in Croydon. Janaki spent 1893-5 back in India and then returned to England and went to Croydon High School for Girls.

She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1904, and was the first Indian woman to receive a degree in Natural Sciences. Following the death of her father in 1906, 'Kidderpore' was sold. Janaki began a teacher's training course at the London Day Training College in 1907 and did voluntary work at the Charity Organization Society's Newington Branch. In 1908, she returned to Calcutta with her mother and met P. K. Majumdar. He had studied at Birmingham University and trained as a barrister in London. They were married in 1909 and lived in Calcutta. She returned to London following her husband's death in 1947.

In 1935, Janaki wrote a family memoir about her childhood, her father and her husband, with a major emphasis on her mother, Hemangini. It tells of a South Asian family living in England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This memoir, Family History, was edited by Antoinette Burton and published in 2003.


Susila Anita Bonnerjee (sister), W. C. Bonnerjee (father), Jaipal Singh (son-in-law).

Published works: 

Pramila: A Memoir (London: Contemprint Ltd, n.d.)


Obituary, The Times, 10 June 1963

Secondary works: 

Burton, Antoinette, 'House/Daughter/Nation: Interiority, Architecture, and Historical Imagination in Janaki Majumdar's "Family History"', Journal of Asian Studies 56.4 (November 1997), pp. 921-946.

Majumdar, Janaki Agnes Penelope, Family History, edited and with an introduction by Antoinette Burton (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003)


Majumdar, Janaki Agnes Penelope, Family History, edited by Antoinette Burton (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 73


Majumdar is describing her early childhood in the family home in Croydon.


Sundays were special days at Kidderpore. They were started with breakfast in bed, as when the elder sisters began their medical work in London they had a very early start and a late return all the week and liked to get up late on Sundays to make up, and we younger ones thought it a marvellous idea, so my mother would send up as many as six trays sometimes! Attendance at the Iron Room was compulsory for the younger ones, and on our return we usually found two or three young Indian students and other friends awaiting us who had arrived for lunch - Mr K. N. and Mr P. Chaudhuri were frequent visitors, also Basanta Mullick and his brothers, Sir B. C. Mitter, Sir B. L. Mitter, Mr. C. C. Ghose, and a great many others.