Women of all nationalities were part of suffrage movements. Women from India were no exception. There is not a lot of information online about these women so the following biographies are sparse. Dr. Sumita Mukherjee did extensive research and documentation of Indian women involved with suffrage movements around the world. Her book, “Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Network” was published in 2018 and contains more information than is listed here.
These are just a few of the many Indian women who fought for equality:
Mrs. Lolita Roy also known as PL Roy (1865-unknown) was born in Calcutta. She moved to England in 1901 with her husband and six children. She helped organize the Women’s Coronation Procession through London and is featured in the famous photo of Indian suffragists. Her name is one of the 59 people engraved on the base of the Millicent Garret Fawcett suffrage statue in London. Lolitia Roy was active in the fight for Indian independence and women’s suffrage movement in India.
Shrimati Sushama Sen (1889-unknown) was a member of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and took part in a 1910 suffrage demonstration. She went on to hold elected office in India and published her autobiography “Memoirs of an Octogenarian” in 1971.
Cornelia Sorabji (1866-1954) was the first woman to graduate Bombay (Mumbai) University. She also studied law at Oxford University and became the first female lawyer in India. Her parents, Reverend Sorabji Karsedji and Francia Ford (Indian heritage but adopted by a British family), were both advocates for women’s education in India. As early as 1902 Cornelia Sorabji petitioned for women to practice law in India. As a lawyer she provided legal representation for over 600 women and children often for little to no money.
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh (1876-1948) was the daughter of the exiled Prince Maharaja Duleep Singh and goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Although born into royalty, British colonialism took the family’s wealth and power. In 1907, she made a trip to India and was overwhelmed by the poverty of her nation. Then her sister, Princess Bamba, was not allowed to study medicine in Germany because she was a woman. Sophia Singh became active in Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the fight for Indian independence. She took an active part in the smashing of shop windows and other protests with the WSPU. She was a nurse during WWI and helped treat Sikh soldiers as well as raise funds for Indian fighters on the front lines. Sophia Singh was featured on a UK postage stamp in 2018.
Madam Bhikaiji Cama (1861-1936) was more involved in fighting for her country’s independence from British colonial rule than getting women the vote. However, she encouraged women to take an active role in helping India to become a sovereign nation. Although banned from England because of her activism in the fight for India’s freedom, she moved to Paris and founded the Paris India Society. She continued to fight for an independent India through her writing and financial support.
“Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Network” by Dr. Mukherjee