Happy Women’s History Month!
This month, we honor and remember Indian women who have broken past barriers and have changed their nation and planet for the better.
India has seen significant contributions from women who have impacted society and have paved the way for future generations of women, despite a mountain of gender discrimination and injustice to climb. Three of the most influential Indian women who have impacted both India and the world are Sarojini Naidu, Savitribai Phule, and Kalpana Chawla.
Sarojini Naidu was a political activist and poet who played an instrumental role in the Indian independence movement. Born in Hyderabad in 1879, she was the first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and later went on to become the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.
Naidu’s poetry inspired the nation to fight for independence from British rule. As a political activist, she fought tirelessly for women’s rights and advocated for greater political representation for all Indians.
Naidu’s impact was felt not just in India, but around the world. She was a powerful voice for Indian independence on the international stage and traveled extensively to promote the cause of Indian freedom. Her efforts helped to bring India closer to independence and paved the way for future generations of women leaders.
Born in Maharashtra in 1831, Savitribai Phule was a social reformer, educator, and poet who is widely regarded as the first female teacher in India. She and her husband, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, worked to promote equal access to education for all at a time when women had little to no access to formal education.
Phule’s work was particularly important for young girls, who were often denied an education and forced into early marriage. She and her husband had opened three schools for girls by 1851 and continued to advocate for women’s education. Along with the multiple schools she started, Phule also founded a shelter for women who were victims of domestic abuse.
Phule’s impact was not limited to education and women’s rights. She was a vocal critic of the caste system and worked to promote greater social equality for all Indians. Her legacy continues to inspire women and social justice activists around the world.
Kalpana Chawla was an astronaut and aerospace engineer who made history as the first Indian woman to travel to space.
After achieving her Bachelor’s in Aeronautical Engineering in India, she moved to the United States to continue pursuing her education and her dream of becoming an astronaut. Kalpana flew on two different space shuttle missions in 1997 and 2003, spending 31 days in space. During re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere on her second flight aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, the spacecraft became unstable and broke apart. Tragically, Kalpana, along with six other crew members, died.
Her success in aeronautical engineering and science was widely celebrated and she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 2004. These achievements as an Indian-American astronaut paved the way for future generations of women in science and technology.
Sarojini Naidu, Savitribai Phule, and Kalpana Chawla are three of the most influential Indian women in recent history. Their contributions to Indian society and their impact on the world stage are undeniable. Through their tireless efforts and dedication to their work, they have helped to break down barriers and pave the way for future generations of women leaders, scientists, and social justice activists.