Isabella Thoburn College is the first Christian College for women in South Asia. Its founder, Ms. Isabella Thoburn, was the first American woman Methodist missionary to sail to India in 1869, after the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS), of the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in Boston to champion the cause of women in India.
The origin of the college was in a school for girls opened by Ms. Isabella Thoburn on 18 April 1870 in one room in the city-centre bazaar of Aminabad. There were then just six girls. By 1871, the school had expanded and moved to occupy a house named Lal Bagh, the house of the treasurer of the last Nawab of Awadh. On 12 July 1886, Miss Thoburn’s school was renamed as the Lucknow Women’s College and began to teach Fine Arts classes under the supervision of the University of Calcutta. In 1894, this connection was abandoned in favour of a new one with Allahabad University.
After Miss Thoburn’s death in an attack of cholera in 1901, the College, still at Lal Bagh, was given its present name in her honour. In 1923, during the Principalship of Ms. Florence Nichols, the College became a separate institution and moved to the Chand Bagh estate of almost 32 acres, where it has remained until the present day. Chand Bagh means “Moon Garden”. The property was once a royal garden. The College’s Principal, Sarah Chakko (1905–1954) was the first woman President of the World Council of Churches.
The College is now affiliated to Lucknow University. The buildings it has developed on the Chand Bagh campus since the 1920s include student hostels, lecture rooms, laboratories, a library, a College chapel and a large hall. The College teaches five undergraduate courses, leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), and Bachelor of Library and Information Science (BLISc). It also offers nine postgraduate courses leading to the degrees of Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.Sc.).