December 4, 2022

Aruna Asaf Ali

She was a woman freedom fighter who in a short time gained prominent position among the freedom fighters. She was inclined towards Socialism. During Civil Disobedience movement she broke the salt law and was imprisoned. She was not released under Gandhi-Irwin Pact 1931 by stating her as a vagrant. She launched a hunger strike in Tihar Jail in 1932 against the indifferent treatment of political prisoners. Her gallant behavior earned her the title of ‘Heroine of 1942’ movement. 

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya

She became involved in Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha in 1930 and was arrested for entering the Bombay Stock Exchange to sell packets of salt. Kamaladevi continued to be engaged in politics and social work, particularly in promoting handicrafts, until her death in 1988.  Several cultural institutions in India today exist because of her vision, including the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India.

Sucheta Kripalani 

She actively took part in Quit India movement along with Aruna Asaf Ali and Usha Mehta. She courted imprisonment for taking part in freedom struggle. During communal violence Sucheta Kriplani went to Noakhali with Gandhi and worked hard to pacify communities. Contribution after independence- 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 Indira Gandhi, a person of rare courage and character who brought credit to Indian womanhood. 

Durga Bai Deshmukh

She was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and thus; played active role in Gandhi Satyagraha movement and played role of Indian struggler, a lawyer, a social activist and a politician. Contribution after independence- She was a Lok Sabha member as well as member of Planning Commission of India. While being member of Planning Commission she launched a Central Social Welfare Board through which she improved condition of education, women, children, handicap and rehabilitation of needy persons. 

Mira Alphonse

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 to express his vision of man and his divine destiny. She played an important role in motivating women like Mrs. Annie Besant and Mrs. Nellie Sen Gupta. 

Sister Nivedita (Irish)

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 propagated for the cause of India throughout America and Europe. Swami Vivekananda described her as a real Lioness.     

Cornelia Sorabji

She was the first woman permitted to attend Bombay University, where she excelled. She then went on to become the first Indian woman to study law at Oxford University in 1892. However, women were not awarded degrees by Oxford in those days (a rule that would eventually change 30 years later in 1922), making her unable to practice law in England. Sorabji returned to India in 1894 where she was again barred from practicing her profession. However, this didn’t deter her. She eventually became legal advisor to the government for the purdahnashins — veiled women forbidden by social custom from communicating with males from the outside world. When widowed, these women were often entitled to their husbands’ estates, but their isolation prevented them from seeking legal help to enforce their rights (all lawyers being male). Sorabji tirelessly fought for the rights of the purdahnashins and even earned them the right to be trained in nursing, which gave them the opportunity to work outside their homes. 

Godavan Parulekar 

She worked among the Warlis, between 1945 and 1947 to help them obtain social and economic justice. The daughter of a Pune advocate, Godavan Gokhale received an excellent formal education and was encouraged by her father to think and act independently. After studying law, she passed the bar exam and then requested admission to the Servants of India Society. She became friends with young Communists while she was working among women in Mumbai tenements. It was at this time she met and married the labour leader Shamrao Parulekar. During the war years she was frequently arrested, detained, and imprisoned for her work with labour unions. At the conclusion of the war she joined the Warli peasants as they struggled to escape their status as bonded labour.  

Role of Women in INM in general: 

When NCM started in 1921, Gandhi initially prescribed a limited role for women, i.e. of boycott and Swadeshi. Even in CDM, Gandhi did not want to include women in his original core group of volunteers in the Dandi March. The Congress never included women in any decision making process. A frustrated Sarala Devi therefore, had to lament that Congress wanted them to be law breakers only and not law makers. 

Other shortcoming was that even the participation of women in anti-imperialist movement increased, they did not use the occasion to raise issues that affected them as women like social and economic discrimination vis-à-vis men.

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