Around the time Mahatma Gandhi was encouraging Indians to peacefully oppose the colonial rule and freedom fighters were trying to force the British to back down, a number of Indian women were quietly taking the centre stage and shaping the Independence movement from within. From calling for abolishing casteism to the prohibition of liquor; more directly – they were taking on the challenge to fight the imperialists to end their tyrannical rule. Some with their poetry called for a ‘Swadeshi’ movement while others built communities in a fractured nation to boost social reforms.
As we celebrate the 75th Independence Day, it is imperative that we remember some of these women with extraordinary courage and commitment to bring a change.
Savitribai Phule worked selflessly to empower women in India, repeatedly urging them to educate themselves, particularly those who came from the so-called backward castes. She said education will the weapon that will free women from social discrimination. She is known as India’s first female teacher. With her husband, Jyotirao Phule (Jyotiba), she started teaching girls in Pune and fought off those who opposed girl education at that time.
Born in a progressive Hindu family in Allahabad in 1907, MahadeviVerma evolved into a Hindi poet, freedom fighter and educationist. She adopted Gandhian ideals and herself gave up speaking in English and worked primarily khadi. She served as the principal and then as the vice-chancellor of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, a residential college for women in Allahabad. However, Mahadevi Verma did not actively participate in political activities. She is often compared to the 16th-century Bhakti Saint Mirabai.
3.Capt Laxmi Sehgal
Born in 1914, Capt Laxmi Sehgal studied at the Madras Medical College and did her MBBS in 1938. After that, she and her family got involved with the freedom movement. She helped build the first all-women regiment of Netaji’s Indian National Army and also commanded it. She also helped in treating the prisoners of war and soldiers who got wounded during combat.
The queen of the Maratha princely state of Jhansi in North India, Rani Laxmibai became a symbol of resistance for women across India during the freedom movement. She was born in 1828 in Kashi as “Manikarnika”. She was married to the King of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao, when she was only 12. After her husband’s death, the responsibility of the state’s administration fell on Rani Laxmibai. She made clear to the British she will not surrender to their rule. She bravely defended her province with a small army for seven days. She fought the British fiercely and died in the battle near Gwalior in 1858.