15 Notable Women who contributed to the Making of the Indian Constitution
As the nation fought against colonial rule, these women, with unwavering determination and resilience, played a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of a newly emerging India. Their stories, often overshadowed by the dominant narratives of the time, are a testament to their indomitable spirit. Find out more with ThisDay!
This segment of Indian history where struggle for independence echoes through the ages, is intertwined with the remarkable contributions of women who stood as pillars of strength during this transformative period. In the pre-independence era, the role of women in India's struggle for freedom was nothing short of extraordinary. As the nation fought against colonial rule, these women, with unwavering determination and resilience, played a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of a newly emerging India. Their stories, often overshadowed by the dominant narratives of the time, are a testament to their indomitable spirit. Among the numerous milestones, the framing of the Indian Constitution stands as a crowning achievement.
Hence, at Thisday, we delved into the fascinating stories of these 15 women who left an indelible mark by contributing significantly to the making of the Indian Constitution.
In the hidden chapters of the Indian Constitution's creation, fifteen bold women despite anonymity, etched their names in history. Among them, Ammu Swaminathan, hailing from Kerala was a beacon of resilience. Born in 1894, she defied societal norms, secured an education, and imprinted conditions on her marriage. Ammu advocated women's rights and delved into activism by joining the Indian National Congress. As a constituent assembly delegate, her fervor blazed, advocating for pivotal acts important to the liberation of women. Ammu's indomitable spirit illuminates the pages of our constitution echoing a relentless force for equality and empowerment.
Begum Aizaz Rasul, born in 1909, became a trailblazing figure in Indian history. Hailing from a political family, she faced challenges but, after marrying Nawab Aizaz Rasul at 20, she embraced politics. Breaking barriers, she won elections in 1937, securing a seat in the Constituent Assembly that drafted India's constitution. Being a fierce critic of separate electorates, she championed minority rights and played a pivotal role in framing fundamental rights. Going beyond politics, she even led the Indian Women's Hockey Association. Padma Bhushan Awardee, Begum Rasul's legacy embodies resilience, advocacy, and the spirit of India's constitution.
Durgabai Deshmukh, born in 1909, emerged as an unsung hero in India's fight for freedom. Despite societal norms, she defied early marriage and pursued education with unwavering determination. She established a school for Hindi education after facing language bias and being a Gandhi follower, she promoted self-reliance and worked for spinning schools. A trailblazer, Deshmukh was the lone female impacting social welfare and education in the Constituent Assembly. Globally, she introduced Family Courts from her learnings in China. Her remarkable journey demands active participation in bettering our world and her legacy challenges us to ask: Are we doing enough for societal change?
Annie Mascarene was like a flame burning till the end. Coming from diverse backgrounds – lawyers, freedom fighters, politicians, and suffragettes – women who joined forces with Bhimrao Ambedkar were rebels. Annie, being one of the rebels born in 1902, was inspired by her father's dominance. Educated in history and economics, she entered politics fearlessly and faced sexism at every stage. Yet she fought fearlessly to integrate Travancore into India and was jailed multiple times for sedition and provocative speech. Annie's outspokenness defied societal norms and it's only likely that we share her forgotten contributions and celebrate her legacy.
Sucheta Kriplani, born in 1908, evolved from a shy child to a formidable force in India's fight for freedom. She was married to Acharya Kriplani against her family and Gandhi's wishes. A lecturer turned freedom fighter, she played a crucial role in the Constituent Assembly and was known for establishing a women's wing in Congress, leading underground political activities, and serving in the Noakhali riots. She later became India's first female Chief Minister. As a tale of personal transformation shaping a nation's destiny, her legacy lives on and is immortalized in Sucheta Kriplani Hospital.
Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, born Swarupa Kumari Nehru, was not just India's first woman cabinet minister but a revolutionary force in the fight for freedom. Raised in a family of freedom fighters, she embraced the call for independence and after being married to Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, who sacrificed his life for the cause, she emerged stronger and entered politics in 1937. As a cabinet minister in British India, she left an indelible mark and during post-independence, her diplomatic career soared. She became India's spokesperson to various nations and was later elected as the first Indian woman President of the UN General Assembly. Her legacy, marked by resilience and leadership, continues to inspire generations.
Sarojini Naidu, 'The Nightingale of India,' a symbol of female power, was not just a poet but a revolutionary force. Born in 1879, her poetic journey began early and culminated in a masterpiece 'Lady of the Lake'. A linguistic genius, she connected with diverse communities and earned international acclaim for her play 'Maher Muneer.' Beyond literary prowess, she also became the first female President of the Indian National Congress. A freedom fighter, she endured imprisonment, stood with Gandhi in pivotal movements, and post-independence, became a Governor. The impact she had on the world is evident in the legacy she left behind, serving as a lasting testament to her enduring influence celebrated annually on National Women's Day.
Meet Renuka Ray, an extraordinary woman who was transformed from an ordinary background into a fearless freedom fighter, social activist, and influential politician dedicated to the welfare of Indian women. She encountered Mahatma Gandhi at the age of 16 which sparked a lifelong commitment to marginalized communities. Ray boycotted the British Indian Education System and later, became the President of the All India Women’s Conference. Advocating women's rights, she wrote influential documents, worked on coal mine women's empowerment, and served in the Central Legislative Assembly. Her tireless efforts reshaped laws like raising the legal marriage age and remain an inspiring constitutional contributor.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, born into royalty in 1889, was a feminist icon in India. After completing her education in England, she was influenced by her father's association with the Indian National Congress and plunged into India's independence struggle. Having met Gandhi in 1919, she embraced his principles and served as his secretary for 16 years. Breaking from her royal lifestyle, Amrit Kaur fought against oppressive norms and co-founded the All India Women’s Conference in 1927. A key figure in the Quit India movement, she later became India's first female Cabinet member, advocating for women's education and health. Her legacy endures as a symbol of compassion and influence.
Purnima Banerjee, born in 1911, embodied a unique blend of Gandhian spirit and Marxist ideals during India's Freedom Movement. A fervent freedom fighter and younger sister to Aruna Asaf Ali, Banerjee played a pivotal role in shaping the political landscape. As a member of the Congress Socialist Party, she ardently advocated for socialist ideologies. Although arrested multiple times for her activism, Banerjee represented Constituent Assembly and championed fundamental rights. Her impassioned plea for women's representation in Parliament, though rejected, showcased her progressive views. Sadly, she succumbed to illness in 1951 at 40, leaving a legacy of courage and unwavering ideals.
Meet Malati Choudhry, an unsung hero of India's independence era, whose heart beat for the underprivileged. With the spirit of Tagore and the neutrality of Gandhi, she transcended typical political aspirations. Born in 1904, she embraced Tagore's ideology and focused on education to erase social prejudices. As a member of the Constituent Assembly, Malati prioritized the neglected, particularly women and the underprivileged. Her ground-level work in Orissa addressed issues like female infanticide and lack of education. Despite feeling out of sync with national priorities, she stood as a beacon for the forgotten, leaving an indelible mark.
Leela Roy, born on October 2, 1900, emerging as a tigress of change in British India. Breaking free from her privileged Kayastha background, she pursued education against gender bias and established her voice in the political and nationalist movements of Bengal. Leela founded the Dipali Sangha and schools advocating women's education, vocational training, and martial arts for self-defense. Joining revolutionary groups, she became a pivotal figure in Bengal's liberation fight. Despite imprisonments, she persevered and was a elected Constituent Assembly Member. Leela's literary contribution included launching Jayashree Patrika. Despite imprisonments, she persevered and elected to the Constituent Assembly.
Kamla Chaudhary was a beacon of change who defied the chains that bound women in a man's world. From the confines of a zenana, she wielded a pen mightier than oppression and becam a revolutionary force. Born in 1928, amidst nationalist fervor, Kamla navigated a path from subservience to political activism. She joined Gandhi's Civil Disobedience Movement and formed a Charkha Committees to encourage women's participation. Her literary prowess illuminated societal issues, pioneering mental health awareness and reflected in her contribution in contitution. Despite her impactful journey, Kamla's legacy remains obscured, urging a revival of her memory and acknowledgment.
Hansa Jivraj Mehta, born in 1897, emerged as a beacon of change in pre-independent India. A fervent advocate for education and equal rights, Hansa's journey from journalism studies in London to active participation in the Non-Cooperation and Swadeshi movements showcased her commitment. Elected to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1937, she later played a pivotal role in the Constituent Assembly. Beyond politics, Hansa championed women's causes, drafted Indian Women's Charter of Rights and served as AIWC President. Her influential role in the United Nations Human Rights Council and efforts towards a Uniform Civil Code underline her enduring impact. A trailblazer and Padma Bhushan awardee, Hansa Mehta's life inspires a legacy of empowerment and resilience.
Dakshyani Velayudhan, a beacon of resistance born in 1912 in Kerala, defied the oppressive norms of her time. As a Dalit woman, she faced dual marginalization, challenging a system that relegated her community to subjugation. Raised in a family fighting casteism, Dakshyani, inspired by her roots, became the first Pulayar woman to wear a school uniform, symbolizing agency. She endured discrimination in education and excelled until she entered the Cochin Legislative Council, advocating tirelessly for marginalized communities. A key figure in framing Indian Constitution, her legacy illuminates the path to equality, transcending her complex journey.