Rukmini Lakshmipathi is remembered as one of the iconic freedom fighters of India. She was a prominent Congress politician who went on to become the first woman minister of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. She was known for her participation in Salt Satyagraha of 1930, for which she was jailed for a year.

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Early life

She was born on December 6, 1892 in a family of farmers. Her grandfather was a landlord. After pursuing her graduation from the Women’s Christian College in Madras (now Chennai), Rukmini married Dr Achanta Lakshmipathi. At the age of 31, Lakshmipathi joined the Indian National Congress that was actively involved in the freedom struggle against the British Empire. She is said to have donated all her jewellery to the Harijan Welfare Fund. She was heavily influenced by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, C Rajagopalachari, and Sarojini Naidu.

Tryst with politics

Rukmini entered politics in 1920s. She got involved in the Swadeshi movement and took to spinning khadi and persuading young women to wear khadi. She joined the Indian National Congress in 1923 and played an active role in organising the Youth League of the Congress.

Role in freedom struggle

Rukmini entered the women’s movement in 1911. She became the Secretary of the Bharat Stree Mahamandal. She also joined the Women’s India Association (WIA) in 1917. In 1930, she joined the Civil Disobedience Movement and was sentenced to imprisonment for a year. She worked for the upliftment of women, their education, condemnation of child marriage, and other social reforms.

Salt Satyagraha

In 1930, Lakshmipathi participated in the Salt Satyagraha that was organised to protest against the salt tax imposed by the British in India. The march was led by C Rajagopalachari and witnessed support from 150 volunteers, mostly from the Congress. It began on April 13, 1930, from Trichinopoly (no Tiruchirapalli) and ended at Vedaranyam with the arrest of the protesters. Lakshmipathi became the first woman prisoner in this movement in 1931.

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Legislative stint

In 1934, Lakshmipathi was elected to the Madras Legislative Council after winning a by-election. Three years later, she became the first woman to become a member of the Legislative Assembly. She held the position of the Deputy Speaker till 1945.

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When T Prakasam became the chief minister of Madras Presidency in 1946, Rukmini Lakshmipathi served as a minister of health in his cabinet, the first woman Minister in the state.  She died six years later at the age of 58. In 1997, the Government of India issued a postage stamp in her honour.

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As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom.  This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com

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