Sarojini Naidu was one of the foresmost leaders of the freedom movement, a powerful speaker and the first woman to be
elected the president of the Indian National Congress
This was a lady who excelled early in life. When Sarojini Naidu was just 12 years old, she entered the Madras University and at 16 she travelled to England to study at King's College, London and then Girton College, Cambridge.
Born on February 13, 1879, Naidu is fondly remembered as Bharatiya Kokila (The Nightingale of India). The eldest daughter of a scientist philosopher, Anghornath Chattopadhyay and poetess Varada Sundari Devi, Naidu was the first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and also the first woman Governor of India. Her father was the founder of the Nizam College, Hyderabad and one of her brothers, Birendranath was a revolutionary and her other brother Harindranath was a poet, dramatist and actor.
A brilliant student, Naidu was proficient in Urdu, Telugu, English, Bengali and Persian. At the age of 15, she met Dr Govindarajulu Naidu and fell in love with the doctor. After finishing her studies at the age of 19, she married him, during a time when inter-caste marriages were hardly allowed. It was a revolutionary step, but her father fully supported her in her endevour. Sarojini had a happy married life and had four children: Jayasurya, Padmaj, Randheer and Leilaman!.
The aftermath of the partition of Bengal in 1905 motivated Naidu to join the Independence struggle. Naidu came into contact with freedom fighters like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Rabindranath Tagore, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
From 1915 she began lecturing all over India on the welfare of youth, dignity of labour, women's emancipation and nationalism. After meeting Jawaharlal Nehru in 1916, she took up the cause of the indigo workers of Champaran. When Gandhi organised the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1919 to protest against the Rowlett Act, Naidu was one of the first persons to join the protest. Later that year, in July, Naid was sent as the Home Rule League's ambassador to England. She returned to India in Jul) 1920 and In 1925 Naidu was elected as the Pres· ident of the Congress.
Naidu shared a warm relationship with Gandhi. It was at the level of using nicknames and she often called him Mickey Mouse. Both Gandhi and Naidu served long terms in jail, together, and were often arrested for similar reasons. On January 26, 1930 the Congress sought complete independence from the British Empire. On May 5, Gandhi was arrested and shortly after that Naidu was sent to jail for several months. She, along with Gandhi was released on January 31, 1931. Later that year, they were again arrested. Naidu was eventually released due to her poor health and Gandhi was released in 1933. In 1931, she participated in the Round Table Summit, along with Gandhiji and Pundit Malaviyaji. In 1942, E she was arrested during the Quit India Movement and stayed in jail for 21 months with Gandhiji. On August 15, 1947, with India's L Independence, Naidu became the Governor of Uttar Pradesh and she held her post till she died on March 2, 1949. Sarojini Naidu is also well acclaimed for her contribution to poetry. Her poetry had beautiful words that could also be sung. She published various collections of poems titled Golden Threshold, The Bird of Time, The Broken Wings, The Magic Tree, The Wizard Mask and A Treasury on Poems. Apart from the poems she also published The Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity- the first biography of Muhammad Ali i Jinnah-in 1916.
A few years after her death, a college was founded in Kolkata and named after her. The Sarojini Naidu College for Women today is one of the better known colleges for women in West Bengal, where over 2500 students take up various courses for their graduation degrees.