Born on February 2, 1889, she was one among the eight children of Raja Harnam Singh, a member of Kapurthala’s royal family in the Punjab region. Her early education started in Sherborne School For Girls in Dorset, England. Later she pursued and completed her college education at Oxford University. Being a sports lover, she never shied away from exploring different games in school and college. In her school, she was captain of hockey, cricket, and lacrosse team. Soon after completion of her education, she returned to India.
Her father’s proximity with several Indian National Congress members exposed her to the freedom movement which ignited the flame for freedom inside her. After being influenced by the movement, she decided to meet Mahatma Gandhi in 1919. She was interested in knowing more but became determined after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Then she decided to make her contribution in India’s fight for freedom from British Colonial Rule.
Though she was ready to plunge in, her aging parents objected to her decision to fight for the freedom movement. This is the reason when she approached Gandhiji to offer help, he turned her away. Determined to make a difference, she co-founded All India Women’s Conference (AIWC). The aim of the organization is to work towards the betterment of women and children. Though AIWC, she fought against social evils like child marriage, female illiteracy, and ‘purdah’ system.
At the age of 41, she finally joined freedom movement, after the demise of her father. Then she started staying in Sabarmati Ashram as Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary.
She actively took part in Dandi March and was put in jail under British rule for raising her voice. Then she joined Quit India Movement and was again jailed at the age of 53.
Strong in her determination and passion, she made every possible contribution to see her motherland free and its women uplifted. Finally, a lifelong dream of Amrit and million other Indians came true when India got its independence in 1947. Her zeal got renewed with India’s Independence. She was appointed as a member of the committee involved in the drafting of Indian Constitution where she advocated for women’s right to vote.
At the age of 58, she became India’s first health minister. Not to forget, she was the only woman member in Nehru’s cabinet. In her capacity as the health minister, she campaigned to mitigate malaria that saved more than 400,000 lives. Her contribution also paved her path for being the first woman to head the governing body of World Health Organization.
Though history has forgotten her contribution to the progress of our country, one of her legacies still continues serving thousands of people daily – AIIMS. At the age of 68, she founded the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi.
Due to cardiac arrest, she passed away on February 6, 1964, at the age of 75. In her lifetime, she shunned the luxury and privileges of royal life for the freedom of her motherland. Not only that, she can also be considered as one of the early feminists of the country who worked restlessly towards uplifting the status of women in this society.
She was one among India’s earliest powerhouses, who crafted the mould for modern India. It’s about time we pay her the respect she deserves.
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