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Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

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Early Life and Education

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was born in a Saraswat family on 3 April 1903. Her father, Ananthaya Dhareshwar was the District Collector of Mangalore, and her mother Girijabai, from whom she inherited an independent streak, belonged to an aristocratic family from Karnataka. Kamaladevi's grandmother was herself, a scholar of ancient Indian texts, and her mother was also well-educated though mostly home-educated. Together their presence in the household gave Kamaladevi a firm grounding and provided benchmarks to respect for her intellect as well as her voice, something that she came to known for in the coming years, when she stood as the voice of the downtrodden as well as the unheard.

Kamaladevi was an exceptional student and also exhibited qualities of determination and courage from an early age. Her parents' befriended many prominent freedom fighters and intellectuals such as Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and women leaders like Ramabai Ranade, and Annie Besant, this made young Kamaladevi an early enthusiast of the swadeshi nationalist movement.

 

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Role in Freedom Fighting

She married in 1917, when aged 14, but was widowed two years later. Yet she went on to take up acting which was considered inapt for women in those days.

The life history of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay went on and she next wedded the poet-playwright brother Harindranath Chattopadhyay of the great poetess, Sarojini Naidu in 1920. After this, she also acted in two silent movies. Later she shifted to London with her husband, where she enrolled into the Bedford College to study sociology. But the couple returned to India to participate in the nation-wide non-cooperation movement launched by Gandhiji in 1923. Thereafter, Kamaladevi joined the Seva Dal established to work for social upliftment of the downtrodden. Though she contested for a seat in the Madras Provincial Legislative Assembly in 1926, she lost by only 200 votes. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was appointed the president of the Congress Socialist Party in 1936, when she availed the chance to work alongside Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia and Minoo Masani. When the World War II broke out, Kamaladevi was in England and she soon started a world tour to voice India's situation to other countries and gather support for its Independence after the war.

 

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