The annals of history have long celebrated the many valorous men that brought the British empire down. However, beyond a handful of names, strong women who upheld the Independence movement seldom make it to the mainstream. Here are 5 lesser-known women Freedom Fighters we must remember to celebrate as we celebrate Independence Day today:
Rani Velu Nachiyar
Queen of Sivaganga estate in Tamil Nadu, Velu Nachiyar was the first Indian queen who rebelled against the British. In 1772, her husband, Raja Muthu Vaduganatharas, was killed in a battle with the East India Company, following which the British took over their kingdom. She later developed a well-trained women’s army to take her revenge and in 1780 attacked the British only to win and reclaim her kingdom.
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, a women’s rights activist and a freedom fighter, was the first Indian woman arrested by the British government for her involvement in the Civil Disobedience Movement. In 1926, she was also the first Indian woman to contest for a legislative seat. She was jailed four times because of her emergence in the Civil Disobedience Movement from 1930-1934. The renaissance of handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre in India was possible because of her efforts. She built a rehabilitation in Faridabad for 50,000 craftsmen and played a vital role in forming several cultural institutions, including the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India. She won the Padma Bhushan in 1955 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1987. She also won the Ramon Magsaysay award at UNESCO in 1966.
Captain Lakshmi Sehgal
Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, whose full name was Lakshmi Swaminathan, was a doctor by profession (MBBS). She went on to help Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose set up a women’s regiment in the Indian National Army named Rani of Jhansi Regiment. After this, Doctor Swaminathan became Captain Lakshmi and this title stayed with her for the rest of her life. The British later arrested Captain Lakshmi in Burma, and in 1946, she was sent to India for the hearing against the INA.
Abadi Bano Begum
Abadi Bano Begum, popularly known as ‘Bi Amma’, was the first Muslim lady on record to address a political gathering wearing a burka. She was a fundraiser for the Khilafat movement, India’s freedom struggle, Non-cooperation movement and Tilak Swaraj Fund. A rumour once spread that her son Muhammad Ali was asking for the British’s forgiveness to get released from Jail. On this, she said, “Muhamad Ali can’t even think about begging forgiveness from the British. If he does so, then my old hands have enough strength to strangle him.”
Bhikaiji Rustom Cama
Bhikaiji Rustom Cama was called the “Mother of Indian revolution” because of her vital role in the Indian Freedom struggle. In 1907 she hoisted the Indian National Flag in Germany thereby becoming the first woman to hoist the Indian National flag on foreign land. This version of the Indian flag was very different from what it is today. In 1902, Bhikaji caught the deadly Plague disease but recovered and went to London. There she met Dadabhai Naoroji and began working for the Indian National Congress. She fought for the nation’s freedom on international land and worked for the welfare of women.