According to Charu Gupta, associate professor, Department of History, Delhi University, the entire portrayal of the freedom struggle tended to be male-centric, bourgeois and upper caste. The lack of the presence of ordinary women in historical work, according to Ms. Gupta, was due to several factors — the biggest constraint being that history writing was generally based on official records. She, however, believes that this approach has been undergoing a change. “As Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert observes in her book Women in the Indian National Movement Unseen Faces and Unheard Voices, 1930-42, reinterpreting Indian nationalist history required going beyond archival, official and unofficial sources” such as oral narratives which revealed the individual subjectivities of participants in the nationalist movement.

Women on Strike

Women on Strike

The few women freedom fighters who did make it into history books invariably came from elite or middle class background. In contrast, there were innumerable ordinary women, with no formal education or very little schooling, hailing from poverty-stricken, conservative homes, who got involved in the struggle with spirit and great commitment.

Many took to spinning the ‘charkha’ (spinning wheel) as a mark of support for the Swadeshi (boycott of foreign goods) movement and raised funds to support the resistance. Others acted as secret envoys and messengers — passing on proscribed material, helping fugitives from the law shift from one place to another and ensuring that they were fed and looked after.womanwithcharkha

 

Source: Bula Devi, The Hindu, August 14. 2012