Women played a pivotal role in India’s freedom struggle during the Gandhian era, with stalwarts like Sarojini Naidu, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Kasturba Gandhi and Vijayalakshmi Pandit leading from the front. Their multi-faceted participation expanded the scope and impact of the nationalist movement.
Participation in Mass Movements
- Actively participated in Gandhi’s non-cooperation, civil disobedience, Dandi March and Quit India movement in huge numbers, courting arrests and braving police brutality.
- Thousands of women picketed foreign liquor shops and goods, facing police lathi-charges. Eg: Participation in salt satyagraha.
Role of Women’s Organizations
- All India Women’s Conference, Women’s Indian Association mobilized women across class and regional barriers.
- National Council of Women galvanized peasant women in UP and Bihar against feudal exploitation.
Propagation of Swadeshi and Boycott
- Pioneers like Sarojini Naidu spread the message through captivating poetry and speeches.
- Matangini Hazra fervently propagated swadeshi in Bengal villages, in her 70s.
Relay of Information and Communication
- Couriered information acting as lines of communication between nationalists. Eg: Ganga Devi smuggled freedom fighter Ramprasad Bismil from Kanpur jail.
Welfare and Humanitarian Work
- Provided food, shelter and medical aid to satyagrahis and political prisoners through organizations like Bangha Seva Samiti.
Women’s active participation in the Gandhian phase challenged gender roles and led to their socio-political advancement. It paved the way for future victories like the enfranchisement of women.