|Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
was born on 2 February 1889, in Lucknow. She belonged
to the Ahluwalia royal family of Kapurthala State
and was the daughter of Raja Sir Harman Singh.
She was the only daughter of her father who was
blessed with seven sons. Her father had accepted
Christianity as his religion. The Government of
Punjab has appointed her father as the manager
of Oudh Estates which were more valuable than
the State held by the Kapurthala family.
Rajkumari, who inherited Christianity as her religion,
had her early education in England. She was sen
to Sherborne School for Girls, Dorsetshire, and
later jointed a College in London. She devoted
most of her time to sports. She was a very good
tennis player and won many championships. Rajkumari
did not marry.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur inherited much of her fame
and position from her father, who was considered
a pious and pure Christian. Gopal
Krishna Gokhale was one of the friends of Raja
Sir Harnam Singh. Acknowledging the inheritance
of her father. Amrit Kaur says, The flames
of my passionate desire to see India free from
foreign domination were fanned by him Amrit
Kaur came under the sway and inspiration of Mahatma
Gandhi and became one of his close followers and
In public life Amrit Kaurs interest was
as much in social welfare, particulary womens
upliftment, as in politics. She was the Secretary
of All-India Womens Conference in 1930.
From 1931 to 1933 she served as the President
of the Womens Association. In 1932 she gave
evidence before the Lothian Committee on Indian
franchise and later, as a member of the delegation
of Womens Organisation, she testified before
the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Indian
In 1938 she served as the President of All-India
Womens Conference. She also served Mahatma
Gandhi as a secretary for sixteen years. She was
the first woman to be appointed a member of the
Advisory Board of Education, but resigned in August
1942. She was a member of the Hindustani Talimi
Sangh. She attended the UNESCO in London in 1945
and in Paris in 1946 as a member of the Indian
delegation. She was a member of the Board of Trustees
of the All-India Spinners Association. After
independence in 1947 she was appointed as the
first Health Minister of India.
Amrit Kaur joined the Congress Party under Gandhijis
inspiration and took an active part in its activities
throughout her life. She was one of the closest
lieutenants of Mahatma Gandhi. She took part in
the salt campaign and was arrested in Bombay.
Later on when the
| communal award was
announced, she condemned it outright. She went
to Bannu in N. S. F. P. to advocate the cause
of the Congress. She was convicted on July 16,
1937 and imprisoned on a charge of sedition. During
the Quit India movement in 1942,she led many processions.
One of them was subjected to ruthless lathi-charge
in Simla. Later she was arrested at Kalka.
Rajkumari was even more active in social work
than in politics. She spent most of her time.
For the uplift of women and the eradication of
social evils such as early marriage, purdah system,
illiteracy etc., existing among India women. Regarding
marriage and purdah, she wrote, The abolition
of earl marriage and purdah, therefore, will not
only improve the health of millions of women but
will remove two of the main obstacles in the way
of the spread of female education.
Needless to say that the position of the widows
in Hindu homes, marriage laws and the laws relating
to the inheritance of property by women need radical
alteration. Similarly Rajkumari considered
child marriage as one of the serious obstacles
in the way of a rightful place for women in the
society. According to her, child marriage
is eating as a canker into the vitality of our
national life. Girls become mothers while they
are children themselves, and bring into the world
off-springs, who are, in the very nature of things,
the victims of disease and ill-health.
She was strong champion of female education. In
one of the womens conferences she said;
In the realm of educational reform, we have
urged ever since our inception that there should
be free and compulsory education. Again, as far
as proper facilities for the female education
are concerned, until such time as universal, free
and compulsory primary education as well as an
adequate supply of infant and girls schools
equipped with trained women teachers are introduced,
we must continue to do our utmost to have the
system of education in our exiting institutions
changed. Similarly, she regarded basic education
as the best suited to India.
Rajkumari was equally concerned about the lot
of the Harijans. Writing about the Harijans, the
deplored, It is a crying shame that the
people who cater for our services are relegated
in most towns to live in the most abominable dwellings-if,
indeed we can call their hovels by this name.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, who inherited the ablest
traditions of a royal house, was not only a true
patriot and a firm believer in non-violence, but
had also been instrumental in the eradication
of many of our social evils.