Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was the first woman to run for a legislative seat in India, in the Madras provincial elections. She was born in Mangalore. She is the first lady in India to stand in elections from Madras Constituency although she lost in the elections, but she pioneered the path for the women in India.
She played a crucial role in bringing back handicrafts, theatre and handlooms to help in uplifting the socio-economic status of the Indian women. She stressed the significant role which handicrafts and cooperative grassroot movements play in the social and economic upliftment of the Indian people.
She joined Indian National Congress in 1927 and was elected to the All-India Congress Committee within a year. During the Salt March to Dandi, she convinced Gandhi to give women equal opportunity to be in the forefront of the March. Later, she joined Seva Dal and trained women activists.
National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India existed because of her contribution and vision. Kamaladevi was also a key figure in the international socialist feminist movement. From the late 1920s to the 1940s and beyond, Kamaladevi became an emissary for Indian women and political independence.
She also advocated transnational causes – such as racism and political and economic equity between nations. She also attended the International Alliance of Women in Berlin in 1929. Kamaladevi was greatly inspired by Gandhian ideas and the concept of non-violence By 1923, Kamaladevi, following the footsteps of Gandhi, enrolled herself in the nationalist struggle as a member of the Congress party. Three years later, she had the unique distinction of being the first woman in India to run for political office. Kamaladevi competed for a seat in the Madras Legislative Assembly and lost by a mere 55 votes.
As the founding leader of the Indian Cooperative Union (ICU), she took upon the job to resettle nearly 50,000 Pathans from the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) in the wake of the post-Partition migrations. Apart from her contribution in handicrafts, she also set up the Indian National Theatre (INT) in 1944, what we today know as National School of Drama, It was a movement to recognize and celebrate indigenous modes of performance like dance, folklore, and mushairas and help the freedom struggle.
The Government of India conferred on her the Padma Bhushan in 1955, and the Padma Vibhushan in 1987, which are among the most revered Civilian Awards of the Republic of India. On 3 April 2018, on what would have been her 115th birthday, Google honored her with a Doodle on their homepage.
Written by – Ipsita Sahu, B.sc Ag 4th Year