Madras Week 2012: The Roads Project : Day 14: Rukmini Lakshmipathi Road

 

Where is Rukmini Lakshmipathi Road?

Rukmini Lakshmipathi road, formerly known as Marshall’s Road, is located in Egmore. It connects Ethiraj Salai and Pantheon road. Important landmarks on this road are the School of Optometry, the Govt Eye Hospital, Rajarathnam Stadium, and Rani Meyyammai Hall.

Who was Rukmini Lakshmipathi?

 

Photo credit – R A Padmanabhan “Rukmini Lakshmipathi” Arogya Ashrama Samithi, Chennai 2001.

Rukmini Lakshmipathi was a freedom fighter and the first Health Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Rukmini was born in 1892 in Madras. Her parents were Huggahalli Srinivasa Rao and Choodamani. She attended Women’s Christian College, and later, Presidency College. She married Dr Achanta Lakshmipathi, an inter-community marriage which caused a uproar at the time. They had six children.

Rukmini’s first political steps were in the early 1920s, when she responded to the call for Swadeshi that was sweeping through the country. She took to spinning khadi. She joined the Indian National Congress in 1923, and was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi.

Rukmini was active in organizing the Youth League of the Congress, and was especially successful in persuading young women to wear khadi. She had already entered the women’s movement in 1911, when she became the Secretary of the Bharat Stree Mahamandal. An association with Margaret Cousins and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya led her to join the Women’s India Association (WIA) in 1917. She worked in the areas of women’s enfranchisement, education, condemnation of child marriage, and other social reforms.

Like every political leader in 1930, Rukmini threw herself into the Civil Disobedience movement. She was one of the leaders of the Vedaranyam Salt Satyagraha undertaken by Rajagopalchari in Tamil Nadu. When Rajaji was arrested, she took over leadership of the Satyagraha. She was especially effective in mobilizing women – as she repeatedly pointed out, the salt tax affected women the most, since they were entrusted with cooking for the family.

For her part in the Vedaranyam Satyagraha, Rukmini was sentenced to imprisonment for a year. As soon as she was released, she continued her picketing activities. She was one of the people who participated in the Individual Satyagraha called for by Gandhi when England unilaterally declared war on Germany in 1939 on India’s behalf.

Post-independence, Rukmini became the first Health Minister of Madras State. She was the first woman Cabinet minister. She was a strong advocate of the revival of Indian medicine systems such as ayurveda and homeopathy. She worked hard to ensure that Madras state had good medical colleges. She also ensured that more Indians were appointed in the medical services.

Rukmini passed away in 1951.

Sources:

Padmanabhan, R.A., Rukmini Lakshmipathi, Arogya Ashrama Samithi (Chennai, 2001)

Rajalakshmi, V. The Political Behaviour of Women in Tamil Nadu. Inter-India Publications (New Delhi, 1985).

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