Madras Week 2012: The Roads Project: Day 11: Ambujam Ammal Road

 

Where is Ambujam Ammal Road?

Ambujam Ammal Road is a small street which leads off Seshadri road in Alwarpet, connecting it with C P Ramaswamy Road.

Who was Ambujammal?

(This was the only photo we could find.  Even prominent women become invisible!)

S. Ambujammal, as Ambujam Ammal was better known, was born on January 8th, 1899, to Ranganayakiammal and S Srinivasa Iyengar, a prominent Madras lawyer and Congress leader. Ambujammal was born in an orthodox family and was home-schooled. She had an Anglo-Indian governess. She became a proficient linguist and veena player.

Ambujammal married S Desikachari in 1910. He was an advocate from Kumbakonam.

Early on in her life, she was fascinated by Gandhiji’s ideas, especially his constructive socio-economic program. This interest was fanned by her contact with Sister Subbalakshmi, Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy, and Margaret Cousins.

Ambujammal qualified as a teacher and taught at Sarada Vidyalaya girls school part time. She was a committee member of Sarada Ladies’ Union from 1929 to 1936. She worked very closely with Sister Subbalakshmi. In 1929, she was nominated Treasurer of the Women’s Swadeshi League, Madras. This League was a non-political wing of the Congress, implementing Gandhi’s social and economic programs.

She joined a number of women who donated their jewelry to support the national movement – on Gandhiji’s request. She was a strong proponent of Swadeshi, and embraced Khadi.

Her entry into political life was in 1930, during the civil disobedience movement. She joined the Salt Satyagraha, and courted arrest. In 1932, she was hailed as the “Third Dictator” of the Congress, and led the Satyagrahis to boycott foreign cloth. She was arrested and sentenced to six months of imprisonment.

A thorough Congresswoman, she was part of the Managing Committee of the Hindi Prachar Sabha from 1934 to 1938. She did a lot of propaganda work for Hindi. As part of her activities with the Hindi Prachar Sabha, she attended the All-India Congress Session in Bombay in 1934. She stayed at Wardha Ashram with Gandhi from November 1934 till January 1935.

As part of the role as Secretary of the Mylapore Ladies Club (a post she held from 1936), she conducted Hindi classes.

She was a significant part of the Women’s India Association (WIA), taking the post of Secretary from 1939 to 1942 and that of Treasurer from 1939 to 1947. With the WIA, the issues she worked of were: Abolition of Child Marriage, Polygamy, and the Devadasi system; and bringing about legislation to protect the rights of women and their property rights. On behalf of the WIA, she was nominated to the Madras Corporation. In 1947, during the All-India Women’s Conference in Madras, she was nominated as the Chairperson of the reception committee.

A dedicated social worker, she was the President and Treasurer of the Srinivasa Gandhi Nilayam from 1948, an institute she founded. It provided free coaching to poor girls, had a free dispensary, and also provided training and employment to women in its printing press.

An associate of Vinoba Bhave, Ambujammal toured Tamil Nadu with him to publicise the Bhoodan movement in 1956. Ambujammal was not in favour of too much industrialization; she believed in the Village Self-Sufficiency model – as advocated by Bhave.

She was the Vice-President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee was 1957 to 1962, and the Chairman of the State Social Welfare Board from 1957 to 1964.

Ambujammal was a notable scholar in Hindi and Tamil. She has written three books about Gandhi in Tamil.

Sources:

Ed. Singh, N.K., Encyclopaedia of the Indian Biography Volune 1, A P H Publishing Corp. (2000, New Delhi).

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