1930: Turning Point In The Participation of Women in the Freedom Struggle ^ ^
First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me the honour to speak in memory of Pritilata Waddadar, one of the foremost heroines and martyrs in India's struggle for freedom, but who sadly remains almost completely unknown outside Bengal. Even in Bengal, I do not know how much people of today know about Pritilata and her comrades. It was only while researching for my book on the Chittagong Uprising that I learnt about this fascinating woman. She died young and still remains a mystery. She is not the subject of my lecture today, but I will speak a little about her while dealing with the role of women in the freedom movement. I hope that some day a full-fledged biography of Pritilata will get written.
The topic I have chosen to focus on is how 1930 marks the turning point in the participation of women in India's struggle for freedom. It might seem arbitrary to fix a date, fix a year to determine the turning point in the long and complex history of the freedom struggle and women's participation in it. After .all, we know that women participated in the freedom struggle from the very beginning. In fact, the best-known figure of the Revolt of 1857 — or what some historians term India's First War of Independence — is Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. While Rani of Jhansi may have been an exception, a figurehead, there were many other women who played a notable part in the national movement, particularly from the beginning of the twentieth century.
In this early period, not only individual women stand out but a number of women's organizations were also formed. In 1910, Sarala
"' Senior Journalist, based in New Delhi.
'''"' Third Pritilata Waddadar Memorial Lecture held under the auspices of the School of Women Studies, Jadavpur University and Biplabtirtha Chattogram Smriti Sanshtan Samiti, delivered on March 28, 2001.
Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 7 - 8, July - August 2001