The Heroic Role of Women in India’s Freedom Struggle

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Role of Women in Freedom Struggle

Women have shaped our culture throughout history in significant ways. They support society as a whole. Without acknowledging the efforts of women, the history of the Indian freedom struggle would be incomplete. The sacrifice made by Indian women will take centre stage. When the majority of the men freedom fighters were imprisoned, the women stepped forward to lead the resistance and gave a boost to a new start to the women’s movement in India. They fought with great zeal and fearless courage, enduring numerous tortures, exploitations, and sufferings in order to achieve our freedom. Read this blog to find out the role of women in India’s freedom struggle, their contributions, and their courage.

Role of Women in Indian Freedom Struggle: Overview

The role of women in the Indian freedom struggle was more of ‘crusaders’ rather than ‘helpers’. Their lives, sufferings, and contributions to the movement, however, are seldom given the same prominence as the males of the movement. 

Furthermore, their names are rarely or only briefly used while discussing the independence movement. Women began to participate in India’s freedom struggle as early as 1817. 

Throughout the twentieth century, countless women contributed to the movement in various ways, including military leadership, political leadership, and social engagement.

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Role of Women in Different Events of Freedom Struggle

Let us examine the role of Indian women who contributed to the freedom struggle against the British East India Company and the British Empire in a variety of ways.

Early Struggles

Women began to participate in India’s liberation movement as early as 1817. Bhima Bai Holkar fought heroically against British Colonel Malcolm in guerilla warfare and overcame him. Many women fought against the British East India Company in the nineteenth century, 30 years before the “First War of Independence” in 1857, notably Rani Channama of Kittur and Rani Begam Hazrat Mahal of Avadh.

The First War of Independence (1857-58)

Even though the British crushed it within a year, it was undoubtedly a popular insurrection in which the Indian rulers, masses, and militia all engaged passionately. Rani Lakshmibai was the heroic heroine of India’s First War of Independence. She exemplified patriotism, self-respect, and heroism. 

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The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920)

In 1915, Gandhi Ji returned to India from South Africa, where he spearheaded the demand for self-rule and the non-cooperation movement. Some of the women who took part in the nonviolent movement were Sarla Devi, Muthulaxmi Reddy, Susheela Nair, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Sucheta Kripalani, and Aruna Asaf Ali. 

The National Movement was also supported by Mahatma Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba Gandhi, and the women of the Nehru family, Kamla Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, and Swarup Rani. In Lahore, the movement was led by Lado Rani Zutshi and her daughters Manmohini, Shyama, and Janak.

Civil Disobedience and the Dandi Salt March (1920)

The ladies began their march to liberty by breaching salt restrictions, and forest regulations, erecting “Prabhat Pheries” and holding processions picketing schools, colleges, legislative councils, and clubs. 

Gandhiji chose Sarojini Naidu to lead the protest at the Dharasana Salt Works in May 1930. Kamla Devi spoke at meetings, produced salt, and picketed foreign clothing and liquor stores during the agitation. During this time, the Nari Satyagraha Committee, Mahila Rashtriya Sangha, and the Ladies Picketing Board all played vital roles.

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Revolutionary Activities

The revolutionaries’ organization was highly active in Dhaka, Comilla, and Chittagong, and young college girls joined it. Samiti and Suniti, Bina Das, Kalpana Dutta, and Preetilata Waddedar were among the well-known women revolutionaries.

The Quit India Movement (1942)

The Quit India resolution, taken against the British, addressed women directly as “disciplined soldiers of Indian freedom” needed to keep the flame of war burning. Usha Mehta, a dedicated patriot, established The “Voice of Freedom” radio transmitter to disseminate the “mantra” of the freedom war. 

Protests and arrests, actions of young nationalists, and Gandhi’s famous “Do or Die” warning for the Quit India movement were widely publicized. Usha Mehta and her brother continued to broadcast until they were arrested.

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Role of Women in Indian Freedom Struggle: Top 15 Women Warriors

Now that we briefly know the role different women played in different events of the Indian freedom struggle and in the women’s movements in India, here are the top women who represented the masses, made a name for themselves and highlighted the role of women in India’s freedom struggle:

Freedom Fighters NameContribution and Role
Rani Lakshmi BaiLeading women in the Rebellion of 1857
Begum Hazrat MahalFirst female freedom fighter
Kasturba GandhiQuit India movement
Kamla NehruNon-cooperation Movement, Protested against foresign liquors
Vijay Laxmi PanditFirst Indian women ambassador at UN.
Sarojini NaiduFirst Indian woman who acted as governor (UP)
Aruna Asaf AliInquilab (Monthly journal)
Madam Bhikaji CamaFirst  Indian to hoist the Indian Non-cooperation flag on foreign soil, Mother India’s first cultural representative of USA’
Kamla ChattopadhyayFirst woman president of INC, Home Rule League.
Sucheta KriplaniFirst women Chief minister (UP)
Annie BesantFirst woman president of INC, Home rule league.
Kittur ChennammaFirst female ruler to rebel against the British
Savitribai PhuleFirst lady teacher in India
Usha MehtaOrganized Congress Radio popularly the Secret Congress Radio
Lakshmi SahgalIndia Democratic Women Association(IDWA) (1981 )

Pritilata Waddedar (1911-1932)

Surya Sen, a renowned Bengali Indian freedom fighter and leader of the anti-British freedom struggle in Chittagong, Bengal, plotted an attack on the Pahartali European Club, which had the sign “Dogs and Indians are not allowed” in 1932. 

He tasked Pritilata Waddedar, along with seven other young revolutionaries, with leading this operation. Pannalal Sen, Shanti Chakraborty, Prafulla Das, Bireswar Roy, Mahendra Chowdhury, Sushil Dey, and Kalikinkar Dey were the other members.

On September 24, 1932, at 10:00 p.m., all revolutionaries gathered near the Pahartali European Club, led by Pritilata. For the attack, the revolutionaries split into three parties; the building was set on fire before they began shooting into it. 

A couple of police officers with revolvers began shooting in the club. Pritilata was hit by a single bullet. To avoid arrest, she took cyanide and died at the age of 21.

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Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

Sarojini Naidu was dubbed the “Nightingale of India” for her poetic and oratory prowess, and her poetry was recognized by India’s and England’s political authorities. Naidu’s poetry is written in English and mainly takes the form of lyric poetry in the British Romantic tradition, which she was often forced to reconcile with her Indian nationalist ideals. 

She was recognized for her lush portrayals of India and her use of vivid sensory imagery in her writing. Sarojini got strongly involved in the Indian Independence movement and numerous women’s concerns connected to the nationalist movement, such as women’s suffrage, after a three-year spell in England from 1895 to 1898, by taking on the rhetorical position of representative Indian lady for Indian women.

As an ambassador and spokeswoman for Indian nationalism, she represented it in public venues around the world (including South Africa, England, France, and the United States). Naidu also served as the first female Indian president of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and as governor of the United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh, in 1947. Also, her extensive support of the prevailing women’s movement in India was appreciated.

The Golden Threshold (1905), The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death, and the Spring (1912), and The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death, and Destiny, 1915-1916 (1917) comprise her collection of work.

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Rani Lakshmibai (1835-1858)

Prior to the East India Company’s Great Rebellion of 1857-1858, Rani Lakshmibai, Queen of Jhansi, lost her kingdom to the Company under Lord Dalhousie’s concept of lapse when her husband, Gangadhar Rao, died in 1853, leaving behind an adopted successor.

She was determined to fight back when the Rebellion broke out. The 22-year-old queen would not hand over Jhansi to the British. Rani Lakshmibai was proclaimed regent of Jhansi shortly after the start of the uprising in Meerut in 1857, and she ruled on behalf of the minor heir. 

She quickly organized her men and took command of the rebels in the Bundelkhand region after joining the insurrection against the British. A ferocious fight ensued as the company’s men surrounded the fort of Jhansi. Rani Lakshmibai resisted the invaders even after her troops were crushed and the rescuing army of Tantia Tope, another rebel leader, was beaten at the Battle of Betwa. 

Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmibai then launched a successful assault on Gwalior’s city fortress. The treasury and arsenal were taken over, and Nana Sahib, a renowned leader, was appointed Peshwa (ruler). 

Following the capture of Gwalior, Lakshmi Bai marched east to Morar to face a British assault headed by Rose. She fought a fierce battle as a man and was killed in battle. She gave a start to the women’s movement in India.

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Kasturba Gandhi (1869-1944)

Kasturba Gandhi began her political and social engagement activity in South Africa with her husband, Mohandas Gandhi, in 1904. She assisted Mohandas and others in establishing the Phoenix Settlement, a cooperative hamlet near Durban where people shared duties and cultivated their own food; the family later resided there for several years. 

In 1913, she was imprisoned and sentenced to three months in prison for taking part in a protest against South Africa’s treatment of Indian immigrants. Kasturba returned to India and took part in a number of civic actions and protests, frequently filling in for her husband while he was in prison. 

While Mohandas was striving to improve the life of indigo farmers in Champaran, Bihar, Kasturba was concerned with the women’s wellbeing. She was involved in a nonviolent civil disobedience action in Gujarat in 1922. 

Although she did not participate in the legendary Salt March of 1930, she did participate in a number of civil disobedience operations in the early 1930s and was arrested and imprisoned multiple times. She took part in nonviolent protests against the British in Rajkot in early 1939. 

She was imprisoned and held in solitary confinement near the city for a month, during which time her condition deteriorated considerably. She was captured again in 1942 for her involvement in the Quit India campaign and imprisoned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. Her severe bronchitis deteriorated in prison, and she caught pneumonia and had a series of heart attacks before dying in early 1944.

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Annie Besant (1847-1933)

Annie Besan was born on October 1, 1847, in Annie Wood, Ireland. She was a well-known political activist, freedom warrior, and supporter of the anti-Church movement and women’s rights. 

In the 1870s, Annie Besant joined the National Secular Society, and the Fabian Society advocated for freedom of thought and independence from the tyranny of the Catholic Church in England. She joined the Theosophical Society in 1889 as a socialist seeking spiritual solace and a torchbearer of the women’s movement in India.

In 1893, she travelled to India with the goal of evangelizing the ideals of the Theosophical Society. She was inspired by the ongoing battle for freedom against British rule after arriving in India and gradually became an active participant.

In 1916, she co-founded the HOME RULE LEAGUE with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and continued this historic movement with the goal of achieving Indian Dominion. In 1917, she was elected as the FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT OF THE INDIA NATIONAL CONGRESS. On September 20, 1933, she died in India. She had the personality of a brave and strong woman all her life.


The significance of women in India’s freedom struggle is immeasurable. Women played a pivotal role in the fight for independence, contributing in various capacities that transcended societal norms, and started various women’s movements in India. Their participation in movements like the Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, and Quit India Movement showcased their resilience and determination.

Prominent figures such as Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant, and Aruna Asaf Ali emerged as iconic leaders, inspiring women across the nation. Women’s involvement in protests, satyagrahas, and underground activities demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom. Their contributions highlighted the unjust colonial rule and the need for a more equitable society.

Furthermore, the freedom struggle was instrumental in breaking traditional gender roles and empowering women, leading to a transformation in their status and rights in post-independence India. Women’s active participation in the freedom movement was not only a fight against foreign rule but also a significant step towards achieving gender equality and social justice in the country.

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Indian women were instrumental in India’s freedom struggle against British rule. They engaged in a variety of kinds of protests, including civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance, and boycotts. 

Women from all walks of life, including monarchy, nobility, and commoners, joined the movement, challenging societal standards and colonial authorities. Despite severe obstacles like abuse, imprisonment, and social disgrace, these women fought for their rights and liberties, motivating future generations to do the same. 

Rani Lakshmibai, Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali, and Kalpana Dutta are some of India’s renowned female liberation warriors. These women’s contributions to India’s freedom fight are still acknowledged and commemorated today.


Q.1. What was the contribution of women in India’s freedom struggle Class 8?

Ans: Women were active participants in different independence struggles. The Swadeshi Movement in 1905, the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, the Bardoli Satyagraha in 1928, and the Quit Movement in 1942 were all key movements in which women played a significant role.

Q.2. Why did Gandhiji give importance to women during the freedom struggle?

Ans: Gandhi was instrumental in inspiring women to participate in the liberation fight and in politics. Gandhi’s views on women and their roles in politics differed from those of other twentieth-century reformers. He viewed women as a potentially powerful force in the quest to establish a new social and political order.

Q.3. Who was the first woman in the freedom struggle in India?

Ans: Rani Kittur Chennamma was one of the first Indian women to lead an armed rebellion against the British. In Karnataka, she is regarded as a national hero, and her story serves as an example to all Indians who fight for their freedom.

Q.4. What was the role of women in the post-independence era?

Ans: Very few women have worked in public service, law, medicine, education, athletics, film, and industry, among other disciplines. Women make up a sizable proportion of the labour force in rural areas. Women have equal positions in the political sphere in post-independence India.

Lord LansdowneLord Irwin
Lord LyttonLord Chelmsford
The Government of India Act 1919Kiran Bedi
Morley-Minto ReformsGandhi Irwin Pact (1931)
Bengal PartitionChalukya Dynasty

This was all about the role of women in India’s freedom struggle and their contribution to the various women’s movements in India. If you want to read more articles like this, you can get Short notes on the Modern History of India here. Also, you can visit our general knowledge page on Indian History!

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