It wasn’t just Rani Laxmibai or Sarojini Naidu who made a mark in Indian history. There were many. The list of women who had broken through all boundaries to fight for India’s freedom, as well as lay down a legacy for women empowerment is endless. The foundation of gender bias was laid the day women started fighting unsung battles.
On the contrary, one could easily catalogue a list of hundreds of men in history who were accredited for the evolvement of Indian history. However, when it comes down to women, the names that we’ve heard of would be about a handful.
Now it is important to look up to those who worked relentlessly without expecting anything in return and broke multiple barriers for women in the country.
Here, we look at those six women:
1) Anasuya Sarabhai (11 November 1885-1972)
Anasuya Sarabhai was born in Ahmedabad to a family of prominent businessmen and capitalists. An alumnus of the London School of Economics, she was orphaned at the age of nine and exiled to live with her relatives along with her brother, Ambalal Sarabhai. She instituted India’s oldest union of textile workers (which is now called the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association) in the year 1920. She shepherded the entire women’s labour movement in India. In addition, Anasuya Sarabhai was the aunt of Vikram Sarabhai, who is regarded as the father of the Indian Space Program.
2) Amrita Sher-Gil (30 January 1913-5 December 1941)
Amrita Sher-Gil was definitely a lioness. Even today, she is regarded as the pioneer of modern Indian art. She has been called “one of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century”. She started painting at the age of eight. Her prominence today dwells in the fact that her paintings are sold at very costly rates. Nonetheless, her recognition was originated at the age of 19, when her oil painting called ‘Young Girls’ was accredited globally. One could say that a diversified essence in her paintings is due to the fact that she spent time in countries like Turkey and France for a significant period of time.
3) Aruna Asaf Ali (16 July 1909-29 July 1996)
Aruna Asaf Ali was one of the celebrated female bearers of the Quit India Movement (1942). Her patriotic spirit is alive even today as she was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1997, India’s highest civilian honour. Aruna fiercely hoisted the National Flag at the Gowalia Tank Ground in Mumbai. Her political charm went on even after Independence when she was appointed as Delhi’s first Mayor in 1958. Ali was truly a freedom fighter at heart. She even went on to establish her own publishing house later on.
4) Captain Prem Mathur (17 January 1910- 22 December 1992)
Captain Prem Mathur was the first ever woman to fly an aeroplane from India. She was licensed as a commercial pilot in the year 1947. Mathur had undoubtedly set the sky as her limit. To add to her ceaseless accomplishments, she went on to win the National Air Race in 1949. She faced rejections from over eight airlines before she was finally appointed by the Deccan Airways in Hyderabad in 1947. Before she joined the Indian Airlines in 1953, she piloted G.D Birla’s private jet in Delhi.
5) Cornelia Sorabji (15 November 1866 – 6 July 1954)
Cornelia Sorabji has endless first’s attached to her name. The first female advocate of India, the first female graduate of Bombay University, the first woman to study at Oxford University. As well as the first and foremost woman to practise law in India and Britain. When this was not enough, her tenure at the Court of Wards in Bengal was an example of her life as a fearless feminist. It has been reported that she helped 600 women and orphans fight various legal proceedings. She authored two autobiographies in her later career. To us, she is a juggernaut of passion and vigour.
6) Rukhmabai (22 November 1864 – 25 September 1955)
A physician and a feminist, Rukhmabai faced innumerable barriers in her journey as a woman. She was married at the age of eleven and struggled to get away with the typecasts of the ancient Indian caste system right through her life. Rukhmabai was one of the first woman practitioners of medicine from the London School of Medicine for Women.
This is not a comprehensive list. Suggestions to add to this list are more than welcome.