Sarojini Naidu was born into the Bengali family of Kulin Brahmins, although her father moved to Hyderabad State after receiving his doctorate from Edinburgh University. As someone who valued his education, he passed this passion to Sarojini.
As the oldest of eight children, she learned English when she was young and enrolled at the University of Madras at age 12. By 16, she was in England where she was able to study at King’s College in London and Girton College in Cambridge, although she never received a degree.
At 19, she returned to India where she married Govindarajulu Naidu, a doctor belonging to a lower caste. In their Hindu culture, this caused some problems, but it was a marriage made of love and together there life was happy.
She also picked up a passion for the women’s suffrage movement when she was in England. This brought her to India’s Congress movement and another famous figure’s Noncooperation Movement: Mahatma Ghandi. In 1931, she traveled with him to England for the second meeting of the Round Table Conference designed to help Indian-British cooperation.
Although she wasn’t the first woman to be the president of India’s National Congress – that title is held by Annie Besant, an English feminist – Sarojini was the first Indian woman to serve in the role. She spent some time in North America talking about the movement, but when she returned to India her views got her in some trouble.
Because of her anti-British activity, she was jailed on three separate occasions, one lasting more than a year.
Her passion for her country and independence continued until the very end. Her final position was as governor of the United Provinces, now known as Uttar Pradesh.
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