HRH Princess Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani
Actively engaged in the well being of the Thai people
Coming from a humble background, the mother of two Thai monarchs was born in Nonthaburi Province on October 21, 1900. Her given name was Sangwan Chukramol and she grew up with three other siblings. At the age of 9 she had lost both of her parents and two siblings and was sent by her aunt to live in the Royal household as one of the servants to Princess Valaya Alongkorn, Princess of Phetchburi , daughter of King Rama V and Queen Savang Vadhana.
While at the Palace, Miss Sangwan was sent to be educated at Satri Wittaya School until she turned 13. She became interested in nursing education and was sent to Siriraj Hospital School of Midwifery and Nursing till her graduation at the age of 16. After practical training at the hospital, Miss Sangwan was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad when she was selected as one of the graduates to receive a scholarship to further her studies in the U.S.A.
The scholarship was granted by the family of Prince Mahidol, son of King Rama V and in 1918 when Miss Sangwan arrived to Boston, Massachusetts, he was there to greet her, as it was his duty to help welcome all new scholarship students. It was believed that the Prince immediately took interest in Miss Sangwan. The two became acquainted while the Prince was studying medicine at Harvard University and Miss Sangwan was studying English at Edna Sarah Cole School in Hartford.
In 1919 Prince Mahidol proposed and the couple later married in 1920. Nine years into their marriage, the young couple traveled, studied and lived overseas and had three children- Princess Galayani -born in England, Prince Ananda Mahidol (King Rama VIII) -born in Germany, and Prince Bhumibhol (King Rama IX)- born in the USA.
The Prince received a Doctorate in Public Health at Harvard University and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While living in Boston, the Princess Mother also further her studies in Nursing, chemistry and nutrition at Simmons College and at Harvard University. Sadly, Prince Mahidol passed away in 1929, leaving the Princess Mother, at the age of 29, a single mother who raised 3 young children on her own.
The Princess Mother was very close to her children and raised them to be humble, respectful, kind, responsible and highly moral. Her parenting method was to lead by example and she was very a strong force in bringing up her children to be good citizens.
The Princess Mother became actively involved and engaged in the well-being of people quite early on; while her children were attending school in Switzerland, she and a group of ladies formed “Sewing Circle” and sewed clothes to be given to the poor. They would also make trips to visit remote villages where she would present gifts for villagers purchased from her personal funds.
The Mahidol Family made their biggest imprint in Thai history when the Princess Mother’s two sons became King Rama VIII and King Rama IX. During the reign of King Bhumibhol – King Rama IX, the Princess Mother worked tirelessly, travelling up-country regularly to help better the lives of the people, especially the poor, the less fortunate and the disadvantaged.
A truly remarkable woman who was instrumental in helping to shape the nation
The Princess Mother created royal projects in many fields
The Princess Mother helped to build schools in remote areas (from her own funds or from donations) and was instrumental in providing support to famillies of the Border Patrol Police. Today, in border area across the country, children are able to learn Thai language and culture, which has helped to instill “Thainess” and a sense of belonging to hill tribe villagers and to immigrant families.
Public Health and Nursing
The well-being of the people was a top priority on the Princess Mother’s list as she continued to follow her husband’s beliefs and dedication. She contributed her own funds to provide scholarships to medical and nursing students. She set up a revolving education fund at Chulalongkorn University to help send graduates overseas for furtger training and education. She founded the Thailand Nursing Association and funded its first national nursing convention in 1960. The Princess Mother also funded the building of hospitals and nursing schools around the country.
In 1969, the Princess Mother initiated the Volunteer Medical Doctors’ Mobile Units project to support the travel of medical personnel to help families living in romote areas of the country, free of charge. The project eventually grew to include the Royal Flying Doctor Services and Long- Distance Calls for Advice Units, all funded through her personal funds and donations.
In 1974, the Princess Mother donated Bht. 1 million to establish The Princess Mother’s Volunteer Foundation, to provide medical help throughout remote areas in Thailand.
The Princess Mother took interest in the livelihood of the hill tribe communities in Northern Thailand. She introduced the Doi Tung project to provide land for villagers to grow crops and to help in reforestation after severe destruction of forests from traditional slash and burn practices used to grow opium plants. The Doi Tung area now is rich with vegetation, crops, and trees that are grown for food and to produce income for the people.
The Princess Mother donated Bht. 100,00 in 1972 to establish Mae Fah Luang Foundation, which was aimed at teaching Thai crafts to hill tribe villagers to help them increse their income. Since then the foundation has grown tremendously and is creating sustainable development in rural hill tribe communities, providing education, vocational training and support in sustaining a secure livelihood.
Recognition for all her royal projects to help better the lives of people
The Princess Mother maintained her interest in the well-being of the border police patrol families as they work to help protect our borders. She donated Bht. 1.2 million to set up the Support Foundation for the Border Patrol Police in 1967. She brought gifts to them purchased from her own funds, making frequent visits to their communities with her friends.
Taking care of the handicapped and the disadvantaged was also in the interest of the Princess Mother. She visited homes and schools for the handicapped and oversaw the Support Foundation for the Handicapped. The Princess Mother set up the Prostheses Foundation to provide artificial limbs to the poor and the New Life Foundation to help provide homes and support to the those suffering from leprosy.
In June 1970, HM King Rama IX honored the Princess Mother with the royal title of “Somdet Phra Srinagarindhara Boromrajajonani” as recognition for all her royal projects to help better the lives of his people.
In 1985, to honor the Princess Mother’s contribution to Thai society, His Majesty set October 21, which coincided with the anniversary of the birth of the Princess Mother, as National Social Welfare Day. The was later changed to the National Nurses Day, in recognition of her role as a former nurse as well as her continued support to the nursing community and education.
HRH Princess Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani died peacefully at Siriraj Hospital in July, 1995 at the age of 94.
Read more about Thanpuying Betty Dumaine, the close friend of HRH.