India’s freedom struggle is incomplete without her women; the women who led India to independence. Who were these women who not only stepped out their predefined roles but gave their heart and soul to the country’s freedom?
Rani Lakshmibai - Queen of the princely state of Jhansi, she was a leading figure of the First War of Independence in India in 1857. After her husband’s demise, she assumed the administrative role of her state of Jhansi. When the East India Company were bringing multiple princely states under their control, Jhansi was not spared either. She led an army of men and took to the battlefield like a tigress to protect her land. In the end, she succumbed to her injuries and died in the hands of the British army but not before she put up a brave fight.
Sarojini Naidu - Naidu joined the Indian freedom movement in 1905 following the Swaraj movement inspired by Gandhi. Soon she started focusing on marginalised sections during the movement. She formed the Women's Indian Association (WIA) in 1917 and played a great role in women’s emancipation and inclusion in the freedom struggle. In 1925 she became the President of the Indian National Congress, the first woman to ever hold the position. This rise to leadership and her poems inspired thousands of other women to join the movement.
Annie Beasant - Although she was a British citizen by birth, she has been one of the most significant leaders in the Indian freedom struggle and women's activism. Even with limited resources and bare minimum agency, she was bold enough to talk about subjects like birth control rights for women. In 1916 Besant launched the All India Home Rule League along with Lokmanya Tilak and strongly criticised the atrocities of the British rulers on the Indians. Till the end of her life, she kept on with the struggle for India’s freedom and even stalwarts like Nehru and Gandhi accepted her significant impact on Indian politics.
Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati - She was a social reformer and aggressive spokesperson for women’s rights during the freedom movement. She was the founder of Arya Mahila Samajh at a time when women were not a part of any organised movement. She openly spoke about women’s agency in society and her marital rights. She stood up for women being used as a pawn of resistance by the men of the revolution. She even built homes for widowed women who did not want to be forced into re-marrying other men.
Savitribai Phule - She created a great impact through her significant contribution to educating girls. She is till date regarded as the mother of feminism in India because she established the first girl’s school in Pune. She tried to abolish discrimination in the Indian society based on caste, gender, religion and class. She faced a lot of resistance from the local communities, Savitribai and her associates did not succumb to the pressure. They kept building more schools and realised their dream of educating girls.
These women are from the pages of history but their legacy lives on for ages and their impact stays with us till date and keeps inspiring us through time immemorial.