AND INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
record our homage and deep admiration for the Womanhood of India who in
the hour of peril for the motherland forsook the shelter of their homes
and with unfailing courage and endurance stood shoulder to shoulder with
their menfolk, in the frontline of India’s national army to share with
them the sacrifices and triumphs of the struggle”.
From a Resolution passed on January 26, 1931.
of Indian women:
The entire history of the freedom movement is replete with the saga of
bravery, sacrifice and political sagacity of great men and women of the
country. This struggle which gained momentum in the early 20th
century, threw up stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai,
Motilal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, C. Rajagopalachari, Bal Gangadhar Tilak,
Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subash Chander Bose. Their
number and stature often gives us an erroneous impression that it was
only a man’s movement. But it is not so. Many prominent women played a
leading role in the freedom movement.
The important place assigned to women in India dates back to the time of
the Vedas and Smritis. Manu declared that where women were
adored, Gods frequented that place, During the Vedic age the position of
women in society was very high and they were regarded as equal partners
with men in all respects. Who had not heard of Maitri, Gargi, Sati
Annusuya and Sita?
In keeping with this tradition, burden of tears and toils of the long
years of struggle for India’s freedom was borne by the wives, mothers,
and daughters, silently and cheerfully. The programme of self-imposed
poverty and periodical jail going was possible only because of the
willing co-operation of the worker’s family. In the various resistance
movements in the villages, the illiterate women played this passive but
contributory part as comrades of their menfolk.
When the history of India's fight for
Independence comes to be written, the sacrifice made by the women of
India will occupy the foremost place - Mahatma Gandhi
participation in India's freedom struggle began as early as 1817 when
Bhima Bai Holkar fought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and
defeated him in guerilla warfare. In 1824 Rani Channama of Kittur
resisted ate armed might of the East Indian Company.
role played by women in the Great Revolt of 1857 invited the admiration
even leaders of the Revolt Rani of Ramgarh, Rani Jindan Kaur, Rani Tace
Bai, Baiza Bai, Chauhan Rani, Tapasvini Maharani daringly led their
troops into the battlefield.
that last century India was plagued with many social evils like sati,
polygamy, ban on widow remarriage, child marriage and the denial of
property rights to women. Various reform movements initiated by Raja Ram
Mohun Roy, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Ishwar Chandra
Vidhyasagar, and others were working hard to bring about social change.
remarkable progress made by some Indian women in the short span of half
a century is a great deal due to the social movements of the time.
himself upon joining the freedom struggle was to assert that Swaraj(freedom)
would be meaningless without change in the social structure. Women must
fight for their rights. It would be wrong to imagine that you rights
will be given to you or that they will drop down from somewhere, if you
simply sit at home.
police had adopted all sorts of methods in dealing with women. They were
dragged along the road, beaten with lathis and even whipped. Their
sarees were torn and they were abused in the foulest language.
Nehru had remarked, when most of the men-folk were in prison then a
remarkable thing happened. Our women came forward and took charge of the
struggle. Women had always been there of course but now there was an
avalanche of them, which took not only the British Government but their
own menfolk by surprise.
Woman's participation in
India's freedom struggle began as early as 1817 when Bhima Bai Holkar
fought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and defeated him in
guerilla warfare. In 1824 Rani Channama of Kittur resisted ate armed
might of the East Indian Company.
The story of women's role in the national struggle for
Independence cannot be restricted to one type of activity such as the
non-violent Satyagraha Movement, but included violent/armed
revolution and movement for social change as well. Women's early contribution to the national movement started
in the late 19th Century with women's participation in the
Indian National Congress. In
1890, Swaran Kumari Ghoshal, a women novelist and Kadambari Ganguly (nee
Das), the first woman graduate of the
British Empire, attended the INC meeting as delegates.
The National Movement for Independence took an important turn
with the partition of Bengal in 1905.
Women joined men in protesting this division by boycotting
foreign goods and buying only swadeshi goods, i.e.
goods produced in the province of Bengal.
Mrs. Nonibala Devi joined the new Jugantar Party which
was dedicated to violent movement in the early 20th Century.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who returned to India from South
Africa in 1915, took up the demand for self rule and later for poorna
swaraj through non-violent methods.
His clarion call to join the Satyagraha Movement saw
women getting involved in all his programmes. Some of the important
women who played a very active role in the Swadeshi Movement
Sarojini Naidu, Smt. Urmila Devi, the widowed sister
of the Congress leader C.R. Das, Smt.
Basanti Devi, wife of C.R. Das, Biamma, the mother
of Shokat Ali and Mohmad Ali, leader of All India Khilafat Committee,
Durgabai Deshmukh, Smt. S. Ambujammal and Krishnabai Ram of Madras.
Women of educated and enlightened families, as well as those from the
rural areas joined Gandhiji in his non-cooperation movement. Sarla Devi,
Muthulaxmi Reddy, Rajkumari
Amrit Kaur, Susheela Nair, Sucheta Kripalani and Aruna Asaf Aliare
some the women who participated in the non-violent movement.
Kasturba Gandhi, the illustrious wife of Mahatma Gandhi, and the
women of the Nehru family, Kamla Nehru, wife of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mrs. Vijayalaxmi Pandit, his
sister and Swarup Rani, his mother also joined the National
Movement. Lado Rani Zutshi and her daughters Manmohini, Shyama and Janak
led the movement in Lahore. Women
who joined the national movement were not only from the higher strata of
Indian society, but from all walks of life, all castes, religions and
While there were significant number of women patriots who stood
by Gandhiji and the Congress in the non-violent Movement, women of
Bengal and from other parts of India also played a vital role in
the armed revolution. Women
played a major role in the Lahore Students Union of Bhagat Singh and the
Kakori case. The Mahila Rashtriya Sangha was set up in 1928 by
Latika Ghosh, an Oxford educated teacher.
Veena Das who shot at the Governor of Bengal, and Kamla Das Gupta
and Kalyani Das were
all active within the revolutionary groups. In April 1930, the Indian
Republican Army, a revolutionary group led by Surya Sen, attacked the
city armoury of Chittagong. Kalyani
Das, Priti Lata Waddedar, and other women were part of this
revolutionary attack. Women fearlessly participated in violent and
The Indian National Army (INA), which was set up by Netaji
Subhash Chandra Bose, was one of the most sincere and fearless movements
undertaken by Indian men and women under the able and impressive
leadership of this great patriot. His
soul stirring call "Give me blood and I promise you freedom"
brought together thousands of men and women from India and South East
Asia, who were ready to sacrifice their lives at the alter of armed
uprising against the British. Netaji
Subhash Chandra Bose recruited about 1000 women for the Rani of Jhani
Regiment from different South East Asian countries.
This regiment was led by Dr. Lakshmi Swaminathan, who was a
medical doctor by profession. There
were ranis as young as Janaki Davar who joined the INA at the age of
seventeen. The women in the
regiment were given the same training as that given to men.
Even their uniform was similar to the men soldiers.
The real impact of the INA may not have been in military terms,
but it had a psychological impact on the women of India.
While on one side women fought for independence, on the other
they also set up women's organisations to impress upon the foreign
government to improve the social, legal and economic position of women
of India. National workers
and eminent patriots such as Annie Besant, Mrs. Margaret Cousins,
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Muthulakshmi Reddy, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur,
Rustomji Faridoonji, Begum Hamid Ali, Renuka Ray, etc. worked for the
upliftment of women.
The list of women who participated in
the freedom struggle is impressive, and these women not only fought for
the freedom of the country, but were instrumental in fighting for the
cause of women
The first name that comes to mind is that of the famous Rani Laxmibai of
Jhansi. Dressed in men’s clothes, she led her soldiers to war against
the British. Even her enemies admired her courage and daring. She fought
valiantly and although beaten she refused to surrender and fell as a
warrior should, fighting the enemy to the last. Her remarkable courage
inspired many men and women in India to rise against the alien rule.
The greatest however was Rani Lakshmi Bai
of Jhansi whose heroism and superb leadership laid an outstanding
example for all future generations of women freedom fighters. Married to
Gangadhar Rao head of the state of Jhansi. She was not allowed to adopt
a successor after his death by the British, and Jhansi was annexed.
With the outbreak of the Revolt she became
determined to fight back. She used to go into the battlefield dressed as
a man. Holding the reins of there horse in her mouth she used the sword
with both hands. Under her leadership the Rani's troops showed undaunted
courage and returned shot for shot. Considered by the British as the
best and bravest military leader of rebels this sparkling epitome of
courage died a hero's death in the battlefield.
Another woman whom we remember in this connection was Begum Hazrat Mahal,
the Begaum of Oudh. She took active part in the defence of Lucknow
against the British. Although, she was queen and used to a life of
luxury, she appeared on the battle-field herself to encourage her
troops. Begam Hazrat Mahal held out against the British with all her
strength as long as she could. Ultimately she had to give up and take
refuge in Nepal.
During the later half of the 20th century the struggle for
freedom gained momentum and more women took leading part in it.
The life companion of the Father of the Nation contributed her mite to
the freedom movement in a subtle manner. As the closest associate of
Gandhiji during his epic struggle in South Africa and in India, she
suffered in no small measure.
simply marvels and wonders how this quiet self-effacing woman underwent
countless trails as Gandhiji’s wife, and how gallantly she agreed to
the Mahatma’s endless experiments and self-imposed life of poverty and
Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's wife joined her husband while he was in South
Africa and worked with him for many years there. She was a leader of
Women's Satyagraha for which she was imprisoned. She helped her husband
in the cause of Indigo workers in Champaran, Bihar and the No Tax
Campaign in Kaira, Gujarat. She was arrested twice for picketing liquor
and foreign cloth shops, and in 1939 for participating in the Rajkot
Swarup Rani and Kamala
The mother of Jawaharlal Nehru, Swarup Rani Nehru cheerfully gave her
husband and children to the country’s cause and herself, old and trail
entered the pray at its thickest.
Jawaharlal’s brave wife, Kamala; kept smiling all through the long
years of travail of her brief life.
Kamala Nehru was a flame that flickered briefly in the raging storm of
the freedom movement in India. Not everybody knows that she braved lathi-charges,
picketed liquor shops and languished in jail for the cause of Indian
independence. She influenced her husband Jawaharlal and stood by him in
his determination to plunge into the movement started by Mahatma Gandhi,
to free the mother Mahatma Gandhi, to free the motherland from the
clutches of the British rulers.
With Jawaharlal away in prison, Kamala took to social work to begin
with. She started a dispensary in her house in Allahabad and also
started a movement for women’s education and to get them out of purdah.
As a member of the Rashtriya Stree Sabha which was set up on a
Jallianwala Day in 1921, Kamala Nehru worked for the entry of Harijan
Kamala Nehru was first among the group of volunteers to sell contraband
salt during the Salt Satyagraha. All through the long months of 1930,
the Desh Sevika Sangh which she led along with Kusturba Gandhi and
Sarojini Naidu, did hard jobs like policing disturbed areas in Bombay.
While the men were in jail, they took over.
Many women of the Nehru family too had
joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. Kamala Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru's
wife gave full support to her husband in his desire to work actively for
the freedom struggle. In the Nehru hometown of Allahabad she organized
processions, addressed meetings and led picketing of liquor and foreign
cloth shops. She played a prominent part in organizing the No Tax
Campaign in United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh).
Great as a poet and orator, Sarojini Naidu was one of the most
enlightened women of modern India.
was one among the many men and women who dedicated their lives for the
freedom struggle of the counry under the guidance of Gandhiji. At a very
young age she wrote many patriotic poems which inspired people in India
to throw off the foreign yoke. She joined the Home Rule movement
launched by Annie Besant. This was her first step in politics. On the
call of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, she joined the Indian National Congress
in 1915. She propounded the idea of Swarajya in her powerful speech at
the Lucknow Conference in 1916. in 1921 she participated in the
Non-Cooperation movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. She became
President of the Congress in 1925. When Mahatma Gandhi started his Civil
disobedience movement in 1930, Sarojini Naidu became his principal
assistant. She was arrested along with Gandhiji and other leaders. But
this did not deter her spirits. In 1931, she was invited along with
Gandhiji to the Second Round Table Conference in London. In 1942,
Sarojini Naidu joined the “Quit India” movement launched by Gandhiji
and again was victim of the wrath of the British government and jailed.
The repeated jail terms only gave her more courage and she continued to
take active part in the freedom movement. After India became independent
in 1947, she was appointed Governor of Uttar Pradesh as a token of
recognition of her services.
The other remarkable woman elected to the
presidentship Indian National Congress was Sarojini Naidu. She became
its president in 1925. Sarojini loved poetry and had been composing
verses in English since an early age. At the age of 15 she fell in love
with Dr.Govindrajulu Naidu whom she alter married. A dramatic meeting
with another respected leader of time, Gokhle, in 1906 was to change her
life forever. His response to her fiery speech brought into her life the
impact of a visionary who saw in her oratory and brilliance a leader of
period from 1917 to 1919 was the most dynamic phase of Sarojini's
career. During this time, she campaigned for the Montagu Chelmsford
Reforms, the Khilafat issue, the draconian Rowlett Act and the Satyagraha.
When Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement on April 6,
1919 she proved a faithful lieutenant. With great courage she quelled
the rioters, sold proscribed literature, addressed frenzied meetings on
the carnage at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.
1930 when Mahatma Gandhi chose her to lead the Salt Satyagraha the
stories of her courage became legion. After Gandhi's arrest she had
prepared 2,000 volunteers under the scorching sun to raid the Dahrsana
Salt Works, while the police faced them half a mile up the road with
rifle, lathis (canes) are steel tipped clubs. The volunteers
wildly cheered when she shook off the arm of the British police officer
who came to arrest her and marched proudly to the barbed wire stockade
where she was interned before being imprisoned.
Sarojini’s daughter Miss Padmaja Naidu devoted herself to the cause of
Nation like her mother. At the age of 21, she entered the National scene
and became the joint founder of the Indian National Congress of
Hyderabad. She spread the message of Khadi and inspired people to
boycott foreign goods. She was jailed for taking part in the “Quit
India” movement in 1942. After Independence, she became the Governor
of West Bengal. During her public life spanning over half a century, she
was associated with the Red Cross. Her services to the Nation and
especially her humanitarian approach to solve problems will long be
Vijay Laxmi Pandit
Sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also played a great role in the
freedom movement. She was elected to Uttar Pradesh Assembly in 1936 and
in 1946. She was the first woman in India to hold a ministerial rank.
She was imprisoned thrice for taking part in the Civil Disobedience
Movement in 1932. 1941 and 1942. After Independence, she continued to
serve the country. She was the first woman to become president of the
United Nations General Assembly.
Jawaharlal Nehur's sister Vijayalakshmi
Pandit inspired by Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi and impressed by Sarojini
Naidu entered the Non Cooperation Movement. She was arrested in 1932 and
sent to and sentenced to one year's rigorous imprisonment. She was
arrested in 1940, and yet again during the Quit India Movement. She
attended the Pacific Relations Conference at Hot Springs, U.S.A. as
leader of the Indian delegation sponsored by the Indian Council of World
Affairs. She was present in San Francisco when the U.N first met there,
and through numerous well attended public lectures she challenged the
British dominated delegates rights to represent India therein.
VIJAYALAXMI PUNDIT (1900-1990)
The contribution of Sucheta Kripalani in the struggle for freedom is
also worthy of note. She courted imprisonment for taking part in freedom
struggle. She was elected as a member of Constituent Assembly in 1946.
She was general secretary of Indian National Congress from 1958 to 1960,
and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh from 1963 to 1967. Sucheta Kripalani
was in the words of Shrimati Indira Gandhi, “a person of rare courage
and character who brought credit to Indian womanhood.”
The most remarkable of women in modern India’s was Indira Gandhi who
from her early years was active in the national liberation struggle.
During the 1930 movement, she formed the ‘Vanar Sena’. A
children’s brigade to help freedom fighters.
She became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1938. Soon after
her return to India in March 1941, she plunged into political activity.
Her public activity entered a new phase with India’s Independence in
1947. She took over the responsibility of running the Prime Minister’s
House. The Congress, which had been her political home ever since her
childhood, soon drew her into leading political roles, first as member
of the Congress Working Committee in 1955 and later as member of the
Central Parliamentary Board in 1958. In 1959, she was elected President
of the Indian National Congress. She oriented Congress thinking and
action towards basic issues confronting Indian society and enthused the
younger generation the task of nation-building.
In the eventful years of her leadership as Prime Minister, Indian
society underwent profound changes. She was unremitting in her endeavour
for the unity and solidarity of the nation. A staunch defender of the
secular ideals of the Constitution, she worked tirelessly for the social
and economic advancement of the minorities. She had a vision of a modern
self-reliant and dynamic economy. She fought boldly and vigorously
against communalism, obscurantism, re-vivalism and religious
fundamentalism of all types. She repeatedly warned the nation that
communalism and obscuranatism were the tools employed by the forces of
destabilization. She laid down her life in defence of the ideals on
which the unity and integrity of the Republic are founded. The martyrdom
of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi for upholding the unity of India
will reverberate across the centuries.
Rarely in history has one single individual come to be identifie do
totally with the fortunes of a country. She became the indomitable
symbol of India’s self-respect and self-confidence. Death came to her
when she was at her peak, when her stature and influence were acclaimed
the world over.
Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal and
Kamla Nehur founded the Bal Chakra Sangh and Vaner Sena to
help the Congress in the non-riot affected areas of Delhi under Gandhi's
INDIRA GANDHI (1917-1984)
WOMEN IN THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT OF INDIA
Besides the hundreds and thousands of Indian women who dedicated their
lives for the cause of their motherland, there were a number of noble
and courageous foreign women who saw in India – its religion, its
philosophy and its culture, a hope for the redemption of the world. They
thought that in India’s spiritual death shall world find its grave.
These noble women were sick of the material west and found in India and
in its civilization, solace for their cramped souls.
First of all we will take up those who were influenced by the great men
of India like Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghosh, Mahatma Gandhi, and
came to this country to serve it.
‘Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India’
Epitaph on her Samadhi.
Nivedita was one among the host of foreign women who were attracted towards
Swami Vivekananda and Hindu philosophy. Born in Ireland on 28 October
1867, she arrived in India in January, 1898, in search of truth. She was
impressed by the ideals of Womanhood in India. She once remarked that
India was the land of great women. She, however, felt that Indian women
needed, to cultivate among themselves a wider and broader concept of the
nation, so that they could participate along with men in building a free
and strong nation.
On the death of her spiritual Master, Swami Vivekananda, she freed
herself from the obligations of the Monastic Order, spoke and wrote
against the British policy in India. She attacked Lord Curzon for the
Universities Act of 1904 and partition of Bengal in 1905. She held the
British responsible for disastrous state of Indian economy; she attended
the Benares Congress in 1905 and supported the Swadeshi Movement. She
helped Nationalist groups like the Dawn Society and the Anusilan
Samiti. She was a member of the Central Council of Action formed by
Aurobindo Ghosh and took up the editorship of the Karmayogin when
he left for Pondicherry.
She propagated for the cause of India throughout America and Europe.
Swami Vivekananda described her as a real Lioness. Rabindranath Tagore
regarded her as Lok-Mata and Aurobindo Ghosh as Agni-sikha.
Mira Alphonse, the Mother, was born in Paris in 1978. She had
shown depth of vision and fragrance of expression even in her early
childhood. She came to India in 1914 and met Shri Aurobindo. She was
associated with the work of Shri Aurobindo when he started a
philosophical monthly named Arya on August 15, 1914, to express
his vision of man and his divine destiny.
She took charge of Ashram in Pondicherry in 1926. She was the inspirer
of Auroville, the international town near Pondicherry. It was to serve
as a meeting place for the followers of Shri Aurobindo.
Paying her tribute to the Mother at a women’s gathering in Kanpur the
late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi said: “The Mother was a
dynamic lady, who came from France and adopted the Indian culture. She
played an important role in motivating women like Mrs. Annie Besant and
Mrs. Nellie Sen Gupta, The Mother had also contributed to enrich
India’s age-old heritage and culture”.
Mira Behn, or Mira as she was most often called was the western
world’s acknowledgement of guilt and the will to atone for it. This
was not at all in her won consciousness, but in that which put her
forth. Gandhi did not evoke her. The most he did was to tell her she
could come if she wished. She came as a daughter not only of the western
mind but, specifically, of that class which had made and governed the
British empire in India. Her father had been the naval
This is how Madeleine Slade brought up in affluent environment of a
proud aristocracy came to serve the cause of India’s freedom by
identifying herself completely with the life and work of Gandhi, who
promised to Romain Rolland that he would leave no stone unturned, to
assist her to become a bridge between the East and the West.
Daughter of a British Admiral Madeleine Slade renounced the life
of luxury and worked in the service of India. She accompanied Gandhi to
England in 1931 and undertook a tour of America and Britain in 1934 to
enlist sympathy for the Indian cause. She suffered imprisonment in
1932-33 and 1942-44 for the cause of India’s Independence.
Meera Ben and Sarla Ben popularly known as
Mahatama Gandhi's two English daughters also made significant
contribution to the cause of freedom.
Ben whose real name was Madeleine Slade attended the second Round Table
Conference with Gandhi. She sent news releases concerning Gandhi's
campaign to the world press for which the government repeatedly
threatened her, but she continued her work. She undertook Khadi tour
throughout the country. She was arrested for entering the city of Bombay
in violation of the government order. Catherine Mary Heilman or Sarla
Ben as she was better known, went from village to village helping the
families of political prisoners
Dr. Annie Besant, along with Charles Braudlaugh, it is said, did
more than anyone had done in a hundred years to break down the barriers
of bigotry and prejudice, who won the greatest victories of their times
for the freedom of speech and liberty of the press which Britain enjoys
A strong votary of truth, she came to India in 1893 at the age of 46,
impressed as she was by its great religion and philosophy. On arrival,
she found that the state of things in India were bad, and that the
Indians had almost lost their moorings. Through her lectures, she tried
to awaken them to their lost heritage by dedicating herself to the cause
of religion, society and education of India. In doing so, she was
watchful that Indian revival must be through Indian traditions and
customs and not through any of the European concepts. As early as 1898
and later in 1902 she urged Indians to were native dress, use and
develop Indian manufacturers and also develop a national language.
Annie Besant entered active politics in 1914. She demanded Home Rule for
India and suffered internment for it from June to September 1917. By
then she had tried and achieved unification of the Congress and Hindus
and Muslims in 1916. She had done ample work to formulate favourable
opinion about the Indian question in outside world. The August
declaration of 1917 is attributed to her efforts.
She fittingly became the president of Indian National Congress in 1917.
Tilak declared that if we were nearer our goals, it was due to Dr. Annie
Besant’s sincere efforts. Gokhale considered her a true daughter of
Mother India. Subash considered her a doughty fighter for Indian
freedom. Jawaharlal Nehru said that in India, her memory would endure,
especially for the part she played in our freedom struggle in the dark
days of the Great War and afterwards. Sarojini Naidu, had this to say.
“Had it not been for her and her enthusiasm, one could not have seen
Mr. Gandhi leading the cause of Indian freedom today. It was Mrs. Besant
who laid the foundation of modern India – Dr. Besant was a combination
of Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati
Besant an Irish lady became the leader of the of the Theosophical
Society. In 1902 while in London she criticized England for the
conditions prevalent in India. In 1914 she joined the Indian National
Congress and gave it a new direction.
idea of the Home Rule League was first discussed by her. She with the
radical congress leader Tilak presented a memorial to Montagu on
December 18, 1917 which gave equal rights to women in the matters of
political franchise. She was the first woman president of the Congress
and gave a powerful lead to women's movement in India.
Cousins the freedom fighter from Ireland, who joined Annie Besant's Home Rule
Agitation and played a significant part in the awakening of the masses
especially women, in Towards Progress and Freedom remarked, within three
years over 5,000 women had served terms of severe imprisonment, they had
suffered lathis charge, loss of property, loss of livelihood from
ill-health, loss of caste, loss of reputation.
RAJKUMARI AMRIT KAUR
(1889 - 1964)
She was born in a Royal family of Kapurtala. Her father was Raja Harnam Singh. She had her education in London. When she returned to India at the age of 20 her father kindled in her the flame of National Movement. She took part in Salt Satyagraha and Quit India Movement and also became an active social worker. She was the first woman to hold a post in the cabinet as Minister in 1947. Her major contribution as Minister of Health was the setting up of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. She remained a Rajya Sabha Member till her death on 02-02-1964
Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur from Kapurthala, Punjab, came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi during the Marital Law days in Punjab in 1919 and became his secretary. In 1926 she founded All India Women's Conference and was its secretary for many years.
ARUNA ASAF ALI (1909 -
She was born in a Bengali Brahma Samaj family at Kalka in Haryana. She married Asaf Ali a prominent lawyer of Delhi against convention. She actively participated in the National Movement for Independence. Following the arrest of all congress leaders in 1942 she went underground to guide the movement evading police arrest. She became the symbol of the spirit of youth in this country guiding and leading the National Movement from underground. She remained underground till 1946 when the warrant of arrest was withdrawn. Aruna belonged to the heroic age of Freedom Movement. With this background, after Independence she could not adjust to the political realities and chose to live in retirement till her death on 29th July 1996. She was awarded Bharat Ratna (1997) Posthumously.
Ali, a radical nationalist played an outstanding role in the historic Quit India
Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi on August 9, 1942, and was a prominent
leader of the underground movement. She published bulletins, went from place to
place and even met Mahatma Gandhi avoiding arrest. She edited Inqulab a monthly
journal of the Indian National Congress.
girls were encouraged to adopt the revolutionary creed by Subhas Chandra Bose.
Under his guidance the Rani Jhansi Regiment was formed as the women's
wing of the Indian National Army. Military training camps were set up for women
in Singapore, Malayasia and Myanmar.
The list of
great women whose names have gone down in history for their dedication and
undying devotion to the service of India is a long one. Gandhi squarely summed
up the strength of womanhood in his tribute to the gender:
woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to women. If by strength
is meant moral power then woman is immeasurably man's superior. Has she not
greater intuition, is she not more self sacrificing, has she not greater power
of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her man would not be. If
non-violence is the law of our being, the future is woman. I have nursed this
thought now for years.
This flag is of Indian Independence! Behold,
it is born! It has been made sacred by the blood of young Indians who sacrificed
their lives. I call upon you, gentlemen to rise and salute this flag of Indian
Independence. In the name of this flag, I appeal to lovers of freedom all over
the world to support this flag." -- B. Cama , Stuttgart, Germany, 19she
unfurled the first National Flag at the International Socialist Conference in
Stuttgart (Germany) in 1907. A thousand representatives from several countries
were attending. An Indian lady in a colorful sari was a rare phenomena in those
days and her majestic appearance and brave and clear words made everybody think
that she was a Maharani or at least a princess from a native state.
The tricolor-flag Madam Cama unfurled had
green, saffron, and red stripes. Red represented strength, saffron victory, and
green stood for boldness and enthusiasm. there were eight lotuses representing
the eight provinces and flowers represented princely states. "Vande Mataram"
in Devanagari adorned central saffron stripe which meant "salutation to
Mother India." The sun and the moon indicated Hindu and Muslim faiths. The
flag was designed by Veer Savarkar with the help of other revolutionaries. After
Stuttgart, Madam went to United States. She traveled a lot and informed
Americans about Indians struggling for Independence. She told about British
efforts to smother the voice of educated Indians who protested against tyranny
and despotism of British who always boasted themselves as "mother of
parliamentary democracy" over the world! She could be called "Mother
India's first cultural representative to USA."Where is the Flag Now?
The flag was smuggled into India by Indulal Yagnik, the socialist leader of Gujarat. It is now on public display at the Maratha and Kesari Library in Pune
Madam Bhikaiji Cama was the mother of Indian revolution. She was born in a rich Parsi family and was married to Rustum Cama, a well known solicitor of Bombay. The political events in India influenced her deeply and she delved deep into politics.
In 1907 Madam Cama attended the second International Socialist Congress at Stutgart, Germany where she presented India's case for Independence most forcefully and at the end of her speech she unfurled the Indian Tricolour with Vande Mataram insigmia thereon for the first time on foreign soil and made history for India by asking the congregation to stand up and salute.
This woman of extraordinary courage and intelligence passed away on 16-08-1936.
DURGABAI DESHMUKH (1909 - 1981)
She was the mother of social work in India. She was born in a middles class Andhra family in Kakinada. In 1937 she founded Andhra Mahila Sabha in Madras which to-day runs two hospitals, 2 colleges and 3 high schools. As Member of Parliament she worked to set up a social welfare board on 13-8-1953 to carry out programmes of educating, training and rehabilitating the needy women, children and the disabled. She was the recipient of a number of awards including Padma Bhushan and the UNESCO award for outstanding work in the field of literacy.
RUKMINI LAXMIPATHI (1892-1951)
She was born in an agriculturist family in Madras and was married to Dr. Achanta Laxmipathi. Rukmini was deeply influenced by national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and C. Ragopalachari. She joined the congress in 1923 and gave all her jewellery to Harijan Welfare Fund. She actively participated in Salt Satyagraha and had to undergo imprisonment for a year. She was elected to Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937, and served as Health Minister in T. Prakasan Ministry in 1946. She was a great social reformer and worked for the upliftment of women in society. She died on 6-8-1951.
MEERA BEHN (1892 - 1982)
She was born as
Madeleine Slade in an aristocratic family in England. She read Romain
Rolland's book 'Mahatma Gandhi' at one sitting and this changed the course
of her life. She came to India and remained with Gandhiji. Gagndhiji gave
her the name Meera in view of her devotion to him and her dedication and
service to India. In India she was sent to Kanya Gurukul at Dehradun where
she studied Hindi and scriptures and taught English there.
NEHRU AND VIJAYALAXMI PANDIT
10.BEGUM HAZRAT MAHAL
WOMEN LEADERS - II
GAIDINLIU (1915 - 1993)
Although by Indian
law Lakshami's adopted son was legal heir to the throne, the British claimed
that he wasn't. Also by Hindu Law, a surviving son, biological or adopted, was
obligated to perform certain sacrifices after his father's death in order for
him not to go to hell.
ignored Lakshami and her statement of the heir, saying that Jhansi was being
misgoverned, and tried to capture Jhansi from her many times, because they said
that a women could not properly rule a kingdom. The British also accused her of
supporting the rebels during the Great Rebellion. In response to Britain's
advances, Lakshmi assembled a volunteer army of 14,000 rebels including the
women she had trained, and was ready to join the Great Rebellion. "I will
never give up my Jhansi," Lakshami said.
prepared to face an attack by Sir Hughy Rose in March 1858. For several weeks
Lakshami and her army defended the state of Jhansi. Although Jhansi finally
fell, Lakshami managed to escape under the cover of darkness on horseback. She
rode over one hundred miles in twenty-four hours to Kalpi, where several other
rebel forces gathered. She convinced them to band together on the offensive and
seize the British fortress of Gwalior. They were successful, yet during the
battle she died. Her death caused Jhansi and Gwalior to fall back into the hands
of the British. She died with swords in her hands and reins in her mouth.
Indian poet and political leader. Born Sarojini
Chattopadhyay, she was educated in Madras and at King’s College,
London, and Cambridge. In 1898 she married Dr. M. G. Naidu. Her poetry,
originally published in three volumes—The Golden Threshold
(1905), The Bird of Time (1912), and The Broken Wing
(1915)—was written in English but deals, in a romantic vein, with
Indian themes. She was active in the Indian
National Congress and in 1925 became its first woman president.
Participation in passive disobedience campaigns brought her several jail
sentences. She was a close associate of Mohandas Gandhi
and served (1947–49) as governor of the United Provinces.
See her verses collected in The Sceptred Flute
(1928) and The Feather of the Dawn (1961); biography by P.