ought to have been by the agents of a so-called civilized
• The report of this delegation made it clears, to the British public as
well as to Indians, that the British rulers were not protectors of
women, but rather perpetrators of violence against women.
Evaluation of Women’s Role
Women’s participation in agitational politics must be viewed, first, in terms
of what it meant for the nationalist movement and, second, how these actions
shaped the women’s movement.
• The participation of women legitimised the Indian National
Congress. Women’s activities validated Indian unity and satyagraha.
The techniques of the satyagrahis were designed to wrest moral
authority from the Raj and return it to the unarmed, non-violent
subjects. Even the British understood that this method had a special
appeal for women.
• The participation of women in the freedom movement also shaped
the movement for women’s rights. Most important, it legitimised
their claim to a place in the governance of India. Saraladevi
Chaudhurani posed the question: “How can we attain rights?” and
answered: “By the strength of our agitation. We must force menfolk
to concede to our demands and at the same time, carry on propaganda
• Women won great respect for their political work and social
benefits followed. In the years following the civil disobedience
movement, more and more women entered the professions, and some
men learned to work side by side with them as colleagues. The legal
structure for family law was reviewed, and efforts to modify it were
undertaken. And there were psychological gains. The stories of what
participation meant can best be told by individuals.