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It’s time we learnt of these unsung Indian feminists who gave a clarion call to Indian women and raised consciousness regarding women’s equality in India.
We know so little about them, but these pioneering women were among the earliest to take up the cause of women’s equality in India. Today, we stand on their shoulders, and owe so much to them.
Some of them were writers, while others worked among the poorest sections of society, abandoning comfortable lives to work for a greater cause. Others were pioneers in their chosen field, and paved the way for women after them.
Savitribai Phule joined her husband Jyotirao Phule in all his endeavors to correct the caste and gender imbalances in our society that needed immediate consideration. Being a social activist, she adopted a feminist approach to her work, including working towards widow-remarriage.
Tarabai Shinde authored one of the early feminist texts in Marathi, Stri Purush Tulana and attempted to break the constrained and orthodox societal norms of her time. Her text certainly aims at re-orienting the mindsets of the Indian society of her time that discriminated openly between men and women and claimed that their respective capabilities were very different. You can find out more about her here.
Pandita Ramabai was a pioneer in her own ways. She fought against the dregs of Indian religious and socio-cultural practices such as child marriage and Sati. She ardently worked for the betterment of destitute women who were hapless against the rigid and oppressive patriarchal laws and norms. The Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission is still alive and dedicated to the cause of orphans, widows and people who find themselves powerless andeven homeless. To know more about her iconoclastic writings, check here.
Kadambini Ganguly became the first Indian physician to complete her medicine abroad and came back to become a leading warrior for women’s equality in India. Social activism was in her veins and being the daughter of a reformist, she herself became one. She dealt with grave women’s issues by understanding their oppression at a grass-root level. You can find more about her here.
She was a predominant figure in the independence struggle and associated movements. Acknowledging the fact that our country functioned in man-woman binaries, she led a lone battle for women’s equality in India. Her dream is still not quite the reality but her efforts were worthy of praise!
Being amidst the earliest batches of girls to receive education, she was a feminist in an age where women’s existence was stifling owing to them being denied opportunities in education and jobs. She was an acclaimed poet and scholar who worked unflinchingly for women’s enlightenment.
Receiving the degree of an advocate from Bombay University, she was the first woman advocate who worked for the Allahabad High Court. She further went overseas to read law thus being a trail-blazer for millions to follow. She was actively engaged with social work all through her life.
Her work as a reformist was acknowledged when she was awarded the Kaisar-I-hind Gold Medal in 1909. She was deeply stirred by the pitfalls of norms such as child marriages, which were pervasive and pre-dominant in her era. She devoted her life for the humane cause of emancipation of women from the asphyxiating cultural laws. You can read more about her here.
Apart from being an invisible hand in all the workings of Mohandas Gandhi, she herself was a firm advocate of girl education and equality. She put in her best efforts in the national struggles against colonialism. Hers is an unacknowledged contribution towards transforming Gandhi into an international figure of prominence.
She is a true protagonist and a social reformer in every sense as she participated whole-heartedly in the national agitations but kept her family intact all through the national struggles.
Sarla Devi Chaudhurani was an acclaimed scholar best renowned as the founder of Bharat Stree Mahamandal in 1910. The motto of the organization was educating the women of all religions and regions alike and motivating them to come forward and have a say in the Indian nationalist movement.
She was a woman of exceptional caliber who actively participated with Gandhiji in the all his endeavors. She toiled hard to bring women to the forefront in the nationalist struggle and defiantly supported the cause of women’s equality in India. You can read more about her here.
Kudos to these torch-bearers of our nation who paved the way for millions to follow them for women’s equality in India!
A teacher by profession, an avid reader by passion and a writer by choice. Love
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