Swarna Kumari Debi
Sarala Debi Ghoshal (later Chaudhrani) 1872-1946
Madame Bhikaiji Rustomji Cama 1861-1936
Annie Besant 1847-1933
Margaret Cousins (1878-1954)
Rani Laxmi Bai (1857)
Rani Chamba (Kistar)
Begam Jeenat Mehal
Rani of Jhansi
Pandita Ramabai , 1852-1922 (Kumar, Radha: The history of doing : An illustrated account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India 1800-1990".….London, verso. 1993, p.26.)
Pandita Ramabai was born on 23rd April in the forest of Gangamal in Western Maharashtra. Her father Ananta Shastri, was a learned Brahmin and something of a social reformer. He married a girl of nine and decided to educate her. The village Brahmans responded by ostracizing him and he decided to leave the village and built a home in the forest. His wife Lakshmibai, hated the loneliness of the forest, but had perforce to accept it. Soon after Ramabai was born. While she was still young the family started moving from forest to forest and town to town. Wherever he could her father would give lectures on the need for female education. In the 1877 famine both the parents died. Ramabai and her brother decided to carry on their father’s tradition. Ramabai’s fame as a lecturer reached the ears of pandits in Calcutta. They decided to invite her and see for themselves. She was so astounded and pleased by the clearness of her views and her eloquence in presenting them, that they publicly conferred on her the highest title-Sarswati, Goddess of wisdom. After the death of her brother, Ramavati married a Bengali lawyer, Bipin Behari Medhvi and they had a daughter whom they named Mano. Medhvi was a Sudra, so her marriage was inter-caste as well as inter-religious. Husband and wife had planned to start a school for child widows, when Medhvi died in 1882.
After his death Ramabai moved to Poona where she founded Arya Mahila Samaj. When in 1882 a commission was appointed by Government of India to look into education, Ramabai gave evidence before it. She suggested that teachers be trained and women inspectresses of schools be appointed. Further, she said that as in India women’s conditions were such that women could only medically treat them, Indian women should be admitted to medical colleges. Ramabai’s evidence created s great sensation and reached Queen Victoria. It bore fruit later in starting of the Women’s Medical Movement by Lady Dufferin.
In 1883 Ramabai decided to train as a teacher in England, and join Episcopalian Church. At their invitation, she went to America in 1886, and it was there that an association was formed to fund her school for child widows. By April 1889 she had started a home-cum-school in Bombay, which she named as Sharda Sadan. This was the first home for widows in Maharashtra- the only other home was in Bengal, started b a Mr. Sen, As Ramabai was a Christian and the school was funded by missionaries, local citizens viewed it with extreme caution and wariness. (Religious controversy), Move to Poona, name changed to Mukti Sadan. When they were hit by the 1900 famine, Ramabai and her helpers were able to rescue several hundred women. According to ManMohan Kaur there were as many as 1900 people in the Sadan. A school was organized…. 400 children were accommodated in the Kindergarten, A training school for teachers wad also opened and an Industrial School with gardens, fields, oil press, dairy, laundry, ovens, etc. It also taught sewing, weaving, and embroidery.
Swarna Kumari Debi p. 38
SwarnaKumari was Debendrnath Tagore’s fourth daughter, and she married at 13, under the Brahmo marriage rights. She wrote poetry and fiction. Her first novel, Deep Nirman, was published when she was 18. In 1877 she joined the board of editors of Bharti and became the chief editor in 1884. In all she wrote 25 books in Bengali, including short stories, and plays and textbooks. Two of her novels, chinnamukul and Phuler Mala, were translated into English, on in 1910 and the other in 1913.
In 1882 she founded the Ladies Theosophical Society, which closed in 1886 for paucity of members. In 1886 she started Shaki Samiti, ‘so that women of respectable families should have the opportunity of mixing with each other and devoting themselves to the cause of social welfare…The first aim of the Samiti is to help the helpless orphans and widows. This will be done in tow ways. In those cases where such widows and orphans have no near relation or if these relations have not the means of maintaining them the Sakhi Samiti will take their full responsibility…the Samiti will educate them and through them spread women’s education. After they have finished their education they will take up the work of zenana education. The Samiti will give them remuneration for their work. In order to collect the money to educate women, the Samiti held annual Mahila Silpamelas, at which they exhibited and sold handicrafts made by women to women. Swarnakumari Debi was one of the first two delegates elected from Bengal to represent the state at the 1890 Congress session. In 1927 she was awarded the Jagattarini gold medal by Calcutta University, and in 1929 she became president of the Bangiya Sahitya Sammelan. She her daughter Hiranmoyee worked together in the Hiranmoyee Widow’s Industrial Home.
Sarala Debi Ghoshal (later Chaudhrani) 1872-1946. p. 39.
Swarna Kumari Devi’s daughter, Sarala Debi Ghoshal, studied at the Bethune school and college and was awarded the Padmabati medal in her B.A. by Calcutta University. She worked as Assistant Superintendent at the Maharini Girls School in Mysore for one year; them came back to Calcutta where she became editor of Bharti, in 1895. Through Bharti she organized a physical culture campaign, asking young men to form an antaranga dal (intimate circle) for self-defense, and for the defense of their women against molestation by British soldiers in streets and stations. She forced her friends and acquaintances to take a pledge on the map of India that they would henceforth be prepared to sacrifice their lives for their countries
Independence. She tied Rakhis around their wrists as tokens of their vows.
Sarala Debi was deeply involved in revivalist movement in Bengal. In 1902 she exhorted young men to organize pratpaditya bratas, defensive exercises with swords and clubs, as well as wrestling and boxing, and managed to get quite a following. In 1903 she organized udayaditya bratas and birastami bratas. These latter took the form of a parade of physical prowess, on the second day of Durga Puja and were invented by Sarala Debi. In the same year she opened an academy of maritial arts in Calcutta, at which fencing and jiu-‘tus were taught Murtaza.
In 1904 she made Congress history in the session held in Calcutta. . When she trained a group to sing" ‘Bande Mataram.’ In 1905 she married and moved to Lahore, where in 1910 she started the Bharat Stree Mahamandal. The chief aim was to be the spread of female education, but as the purdah system and child marriage were main obstacles to education of women it was proposed to start organizations in every province whose function it would be to collect money and engage teachers who would be sent to the housed of those who desired to educate their wives and daughters. It was also decided that text books suitable for teaching Indian women should be written or adapted for the purpose, women should try and enrich the vernacular literature, organize selling centers for women’s handicrafts and do what they could to afford medical treatment to women.
Madame Bhikaiji Rustomji Cama 1861-1936 p.46
Madame Cama was involved in the revolutionary movement in India and abroad, with Shyamji Verma. S. R. Rana, and others. Among other activities she smuggled revolvers concealed in toys (sent as Chrismas presents) into India. In 1907 she attended the international Socialist Congress in Stuttgart, where she unfurled the Indian National Flag, and persuaded the Congress to support Indian independence. In 1909, her group started Bande Mataram, a monthly organ for Indian independence, and published it from Geneva. Madam Kama was herself an internationalist; but she believed that nationalism had to come before internationalism. Her war cry was "Orient for the Orientals."
Despite her avowal that Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs should not allow religion to interfere in their brotherhook as countrymen the Indian revolution to be was defined as a Hindi revolution and revolution and revolutionary figures as incarnations of figures in Hindu mythology.
A Parsi commentator says she was self-willed as a child, and as a young woman she was hot headed and of independent views. She married Rustom K R Cama ub 1885, a solister and an ardent nationalist who was manager of Bombay Chronicle, from 1915-18. Her married life was unhappy. Madame Cama was only allowed by the British Government to return to India when she was 74 and failing in health. She died in 1936.
Annie Besant 1847-1933. p.48
Annie Basant came to India in 1893, by which time she had worked with Charles Bradlaugh on the National Reformer,become a critic of British colonialism, and joined the Theosophical Society. In India she lived at Adyar in Madras, which was the headquarters of the Theosophical Society. She supported Sanatan Dharam movement advocating that Hindu children be taught Sanskrit and learn Aryan ‘simplicity and spirituality’, but despite this revivalist strain she believed in the equal rights of men and women on the equal but complementary basis. Initially she felt that India needed to educate herself before she was capable of self-government, but by the outbreak of the First World War she was campaigning for self- government. In 1914 she joined Congress and in 1916 was one of the founders of Home Rule League. In June 1917 she was arrested under Defense f India Act. Her arrest was followed by a series of protest meetings all over the country and abroad. The British released her. In the same year she was elected president of Congress. Under her influence the Congress expressed the opinion that the same test be applied to women as to men in regard to franchise and the eligibility to all elective bodies concerned with local government and education. In December 1917, she along with Margaret Cousins, Sarojini Naidu and eight other Indian women, went to meet Mr. Montague to demand votes for Indian women. Her appreciation of the strength of women was remarkably similar to Gandhi’s; in her opinion the Home Rule movement was ‘rendered tenfold greater by the adhesion to it of large numbers of women who bring to its help the calculating heroism, endurance, and self-sacrifice of the feminine nature. ´ In 1924 she lead a deputation of home rulers to England to demand Dominion Home a Rule for India. In 1925 drafted a Bill on a constitution for self-government which was approved by Gandhi and supported by the Labor Party but never enacted.
R.K. Narayan (b. 1907), a south Indian novelist who created the fictional town of Malgudi, has encompassed a broad range of women within his work. In his The Dark Room (1938), Savitri, the heroine, cannot escape from a stifling family situation because of her lack of economic independence and self-confidence. Daisy, the heroine of his last novel, The Painter of Signs (1976), is a government birth-control worker who refuses both ties to natal family and marriage proposals. Anita Desai (b.1937) has focused on the lives of urban women and has etched the divergent paths of two sisters in Clear Light of Day (1980). Memoirs, such as those by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (1986), Gayatri Devi of Jaipur (1976), Vijayalakshmi Pandit (1979), and Begum Shaista S. Ikramullah (1969) are important expressions of their authors’ autonomy. The Nectar in the Sieve (1954) by Kamale Markandaya is the most readily available novel about peasant women, but perhaps more authentic accounts of the lives of such women are in anthropological studies,, such as Behind Mud Walls (1989), in which William and Charlotte Wiser have studied the same north Indian village over four decades from 1930 to 1970. All of these novels and memoirs were written originally in English. Although there are many Indian women writing in Indian languages, regrettably few of their novels, short stories, and poems have been translated into English or these translations are not easily available in North America. Four notable exceptions are the Longman Anthology of World Literature by Women (Arkin and Shollar 1989) that includes selections by twelve Indian women; a collection of Bengali short stories by Mahasweta Devi that Kalpana Bardhan has translated (1990); Truth Tales, edited by a collective in Delhi (1990); and a massive two-volume anthology by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita of the writings of Indian women from 600 B.C. to the present (1990, 1991).
Vijayalakshmi Pandit, serving as ambassador to the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain, achieved international distinction.
Padma Naidu, the daughter of Sarojini Naidu, was appointed the governor of the state of West Bengal.
Hansa Mehta achieved prominence as vice-chancellor of M. S. University in Baroda. Sucheta Kripalani even served as chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Women were elected to state legislatures and the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, in numbers which were slightly higher than the female representation of around three-and one-half percent in corresponding bodies in western countries, including the United States.
Most notably, Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister of India in 1966. Although being Nehru’s daughter aided her initial selection, she demonstrated her ability to remain in power through several elections until her tragic death in 1984.
1.Rani Laxmi Bai (1857)
2.Rani Chamba (Kistar)
4. Begam Jeenat Mehal
5 Rani of Jhansi
6. Annie Bessant : Born in London. Became a Theosophist and adopted India as her home in 1916.
7. Margaret Cousins (1878-1954), an Irish feminist and a Theosophist, helped to organize a deputation of Indian women in 1917 to petition for an extension of the franchise to Indian women (Ramusack 1981a). Setup the Home Rule League and established anti-governmentpaaper called New India in 1917. Was elected president of All India Congress.
Dorothy Jinarajadasa, an English feminist married to a Ceylonese, Buddhist leader of the Theosophical Society, called the first meetings of the Women’s Indian Association. This group was based in Madras. Linked to British movement of Women ‘s sufferage. Active in the Women’s India Association, AIWC (All India Women’s