Freedom fighter Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, along with the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi got mentioned in TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful women who defined the last century. The new project “spotlights influential women who were often overshadowed” by recreating special covers in the publication that would feature these women. It named Kaur as ‘Woman of the Year’ for 1947 and Gandhi for 1976.
Kaur’s profile said that the young princess returned to India in 1918 after studying at Oxford. Mahatma Gandhi's teachings fascinated her and she "decided her life’s mission was to help India break free from its colonial ties and oppressive societal norms.” She made significant contributions to the health sector and Indian freedom movement, she worked for the emancipation of women.
Contribution to the medical field
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was born into the Kapurthala royal family and completed her education from Oxford. In 1936, Gandhi was seeking more women to join the country's freedom movement and had written to her, "I am now in search of a woman who would realize her mission. Are you that woman, will you be one?" Intrigued by his work and ideologies, she worked as his secretary and this helped her participate in the fight against colonialism.
She then went on to become the first woman in independent India to join the Cabinet as the Health Minister in 1947 and remained in the office for 10 years. During her tenure as the Health Minister, she found the Indian Council for Child Welfare that has since been working to serve distressed children who have been orphaned or are destitute. Later, she laid the foundation of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and Lady Irwin College of the University of Delhi. Moreover, she is known for setting up the Tuberculosis Association of India, the Central Leprosy and Research Institute and several other health centers across the country.
Becoming a part of the freedom struggle
Influenced by Gandhi and his philosophies, she gave up her privileges and began to lead a simple life as he did. Further interactions with Gopal Krishna Gokhale drove her deeper into the freedom struggle. “The flames of my passionate desire to see India free from foreign domination were fanned by him,” she said, about the Mahatma. Even before working with Gandhi, Kaur empowered women by fighting the purdah system, child marriage, and the Devadasi system. She was against the oppressive practices that made Indian women suffer.
When the civil disobedience movement gained momentum in the 1930s, Kaur did not leave any stone unturned on her part. Post the Quit India Movement when this unsung heroine of the Indian freedom struggle was prisoned, she took a spinning wheel, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible with her to the jail.
A true feminist
As much as she advocated for women's equal rights, Kaur was against the system of reservations for women. In 1927, Kaur became one of the founding members of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), an organization that works to promote women's and children's education and social welfare. Not only did she help the country break through the shackles of colonialism she also bashed the repressive patriarchal practices prevalent in Indian society.
PC: Kalinga TV
Saavriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV