Margaret Elizabeth Noble

The Nobles were descendants of an old Scottish family. They began to live at a small town in North Ireland called Rostrevor since the end of the fourteenth century. Margaret's father Samuel Richmond Noble married Mary Hamilton and began to live at Dangannon in County Tyron. There Samuel set up a shop before his inclination drew him to his father's vocation. He gave up his business and moved to England with his wife and enrolled himself as a student of the Wesleyan church in Manchester. At this time Margaret was not even a year-old. She remained with her grandmother.

A little later Samuel was ordained and sent to a church at Oldham in Greater Manchester and had got a home to live. Margaret was brought to her parents and there she first met her three-year old sister May. But before they came to Oldham, the disease that finally would take Samuel away had already possessed his body. When his health forced him to move to the country, the family went to settle at Great Torrington in Devonshire. This was in 1876. Here Margaret’s brother Richmond was born. Samuel lived no more than a year since he went to Great Torrington. In 1877 he died at thirty-four putting his wife and three children in dire hardship. Mary Noble went back to north Ireland with her children  to live with her father. Almost during this time Margaret and May were sent to Halifax College for their studies. Margaret remained there till 1884 before moving to Keswick in the Lake District of northwest England to begin work as a teacher in a good private boarding school. She was eighteen.

A Blooming Life

Margaret remained at Keswick for about two years before moving to teach in an orphanage school at Rugby in Warwickshire. In 1887 she went to a bigger school at Wrexham, the largest town in north of Wales. In 1889 she took transfer to another school in Chester in northwest England. In January 1890 Margaret joined a new school about to be opened at Wimbledon as its Co-Principal. Here her life took a broader course. For Wimbledon's nearness to London brought her to many bright and intellectual people. Her brilliance, ability, and surging ideas made her instantly dear to many distinguished  men and women. In 1892 she opened her own school in Wimbledon to pursue educational ideas and experiments that since a little before began to invade her ever expanding mind.

Time Magazine on Bible

Time, 18 Dec. 1995

The Crisis

This confusion had a long past. The Western world began to face this crisis since about the middle of nineteenth century. The abrupt societal changes following rapid progress in science and technology had its devastating impact on human faith and beliefs. Margaret could hardly escape this impact of her time. Until eighteen she remained a devout Christian when doubts began to creep in and agitated her age-old beliefs. In her own religion she failed to find the truth she was after. This took her to study natural sciences, but it added more doubts to her already confused mind. As an escape she delved deep into Buddhism and the life of Goutam Buddha; it did help to soothe her mind a little but the truth she longed for remained eluding till the winter of 1895.

Undying Love For Christianity

But her growing disbelief in the mythical foundations of her religion which led her to the sublimity of Hindu religion and philosophy never robbed her of an undying link with Christianity. True, while disclosing her confusions immediately before she met the Swami, Margaret, then rechristened as Sister Nivedita, wrote: 'Christianity had once meant to me the realisation of God as the Father. But I had long mourned over my own loss of faith in this symbolism and had desired to study its value as an idea, apart from its objective truth or untruth.' Long afterwards, on 20 July 1905, we saw her writing this words in a letter: 'Christianity is so beautiful - that I cannot understand being really cut off from it. ... The Christianity that I love is of convent cells and Christian souls, and no other.' In fact, Vivekananda used to say: '... It is very good to be born in a church, but it is very bad to die in a church.' Nivedita made it true in her life. 

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Kingston House School, Wrexham
The Kingston House School

This was where in Wrexham  Nivedita began to teach after the Rugby orphanage. In fact the name of this school has recently been known from the advertisement in the Wrexham Advertiser of 3 September 1887 (left). As the time of the advertisement matches with when Nivedita had been with this school, her ability as a teacher becomes easily understandable.

Regent Street Wrexha

Regent Street, Wrexham

St, Mark's Church, wrexham

St, Mark's Church, wrexham

Wrexham Advertiser of 3 September 1887

Social Work At Wrexham

The St. Mark's Church played a significant role in shaping Nivedita. For while in Wrexham she enrolled herself with the Church as a social worker to impart services to the extremely impoverished families of the colliery workers. As an idealist she never thought of exercising any bias in her benevolent work. But the Church had otherwise agendas, for they decidedly remained unmindful to those besides their parishioners. By knowing this Nivedita instantly distanced herself from such partisan approach and began to write in the local papers in pseudonym about the plight of the colliery people. Thus she first knew about the might of her pen. A few of her writings during those days are available in her Complete Works today. After  Wrexham Nivedita went to a school in Chester before finally moving to Wimbledon.

Chester Northgate
At Wimbledon

The advertisement seen in the left had too come up in the Wrexham Advertiser of 11 January 1890. According to the Review of Reviews of London, Madame De Leeuw had half a dozen languages at the tip of her tongue. She was the founder Principal of this School and had personally chosen Nivedita to become its co-principal and entrusted her to manage it on her own. Later on Nivedita opened her own school in Wimbledon and ran it till before leaving for India.

The Kingsley School, Wimbledon

Chester Northgate early 1900s

Wrexham Advertiser on 11 January 1890

The Sesame Club, Dover Street, London

The Sesame Club, 29 Dover Street, London

The Sesame Club

Nivedita had been closely associated with the distinguished Sesame Club of London when she first met Swami Vivekananda. She even  had once been  the Secretary of this Club. Through her friend Ronald Mcneill she came in contact with Lady Ripon and began to attend her exclusive salon where many eminent people came for discussions on art and literature. Together with Ronald and a few other like minded people Nivediat took part in converting the salon into the Sesame Club in 1895. Located at 29 Dover Street in London, the Club used to organize literary and educational programmes in which men like George Bernard Shaw, Aldux Huxley and many others of eminence used to come and gave lectures. The Sesame Club was in existence till 1924. The year before Nivedita journeyed to India the Club had nine hundred members, a majority of whom pursued their interests in educational theories and practices. 

This was the backdrop when Nivedita met Swami Vivekananda at an informal lecture in a West End drawing room in London on 10 November 1895.