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VIJAYA LAKSHMI NEHRU PANDIT
Female Indian Politician & Diplomat
The symbol of the Indian Indepedence Movement was Mother Durga, who is the bringer of the Mother Shakti Energy, the energy which prevades the Universe. All great social progressive movements enlist this energy. It is no surprise women were the ones who were major actresses in this movement. Women often did not receive th credit for the roles they played in the movement. We praise their male counterparts--husbands, brothers, fathers, sons, uncles, cousins, brother-in-laws, son-in-laws and father-in-laws. We seem to forget that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind every great woman is a great man. There were many great fore mothers in this movement. Let's find out about one of the many great ones.
Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit is one of these great women I will feature from time to time, who played a vital role in the movement. She was born on August 18, 1900 at Allahabad. Her parents were Motilal Nehru and Swarup Rani Nehru. She was the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, who became India's first prime minister. In the 60's and 70's many of my generation proudly wore Nehru jackets which were named after him. Her father combined the best of the West and the East in his household. He was against caste barriers and outdated social customs, but preserved traditional practices which made sense to him. He influenced Vijaya the most of his three children.
She became involved in politics when she was 16 and she joined her cousin, Rameshwari Nehru, in a women's protest against the treatment of Indian workers in South Africa. She became a volunteer in Annie Besant's Home Rule League. Annie Besant was the Irish female leader of the Theosophical Society, who became another strong leader in the Indian Indepedence Movement. Not only Indian women supported the movement, but English, American, Irish and Scottish women.
On May 10, 1921 Vijaya married Ranjit Pandit, a litterateur, aristocrat and barrister (attorney) from Kathiawar. Chandra Lekha, novelist Nayantara Sahgal and Rita Vitasta were the names of her children. Her husband died in 1944 right after his last imprisonment. Because he had made no will, she was a penniless widow. Hindu widows had no inheritance rights on their own at this time. His brother claimed all property. This was worldwide problem for women. As you recall in Jane Austen's books, she writes about this very problem. Despite her situation she went to work in Bengal and set up the Save the Children Fund. Gandhi asked her to speak in the USA about the conditions in India.
She became a member of the Constituent Assembly who helped draft the Indian Constitution. She became a member of the Indian Parliament, led India's First Goodwill Mission to China and became Governor of Maharashtra. She ran for election to Parliament, after resigning as Governor, to fill a position in Phulpur vacated after the death of her brother, Jawahrial. She was India's first woman Cabinet Minister and the first woman to lead a delegation to the United Nations. She was the world's first woman ambassador serving in Moscow, Washington and London. She also became the first female President fo the United Nations General Assembly. For her politics was a "means of social and economic reform, which strengthens human rights and empowers women." She was a great and powerful woman who ushered in so much change in India. I cannot think of any other woman who held so many political and diplomatic offices in her lifetime. In 1979 she became the Indian representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, her last public position. When Indira Gandhi was the prime minister of India she got out of politics for awhile. She wrote The Evolution of India (1958) and The Scope of Happiness: A Personal Memoir (1979). On December 1, 1990 she died in Dehra Dunn. Many of us remember Indira Gandhi as a great female leader, but this great woman did so much for India throughout the whole world. She is a great fore mother who paved the way for other Indian female politicians and diplomats and many other female leaders world wide. We should be very grateful to our fore mothers who struggled to make our path easier. It was wonderful sharing her story with you. Now make your own story.
JAI SHRI VIJAYA LAXMI NEHRU PANDIT! JAI SHRI DURGA MA!