08 March 2021

Happy Women's Day

Famous Women from Romania


Date of Issue : 5 March 2020

Famous Women from Romania

Sarmiza Bilcescu (1867-1935), known as Sarmiza Bilcescu-Alimanisteanu, after her marriage to the engineer Constantin Alimanisteanu, whose image is illustrated on the stamp with the face value of Lei 19.50, was the first woman lawyer in Romania, the first woman to study law at the Sorbonne University in Paris and the first woman in the world to obtain a Ph.D. in law.

By enrolling in the Faculty of Law in Sorbonne, she became the first woman to attend this faculty. Her colleagues readily accepted her; on the other hand, not all teaching staff members were equally unprejudiced: some went so far as to forbid her from attending their classes.

However, Sarmiza Bilcescu persevere, took her exams with success, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in legal sciences in 1887, and in 1890 she became the first woman in the world to obtain an academic doctorate in law, with the thesis “On the Legal Condition of the Mother in the Romanian and French Law”, in which she pleaded for equality between woman and man in marriage and in terms of rights over the child.

Returning to Romania, she applied for membership in the Ilfov Bar. Although her application confused the teaching staff members, it was accepted, Sarmiza Bilcescu thus becoming, in 1891, the first woman lawyer in Romania. However, she did not practice law, because the mentality of the clients determined them to turn to male lawyers. Instead, she dedicated herself to philanthropic activity, to improving the condition and rights of women, to education, and promotion of Romanian culture.

Alice Voinescu (1885-1961), illustrated on the stamp with the face value of Lei 1.40, was the first Romanian female doctor of philosophy. A writer, translator and theatre critic, she graduated from the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy in Bucharest, and in 1913 she obtained her Ph.D. in philosophy at the Sorbonne University in Paris, thus becoming the first woman in Romania with a Ph.D. in this subject. She received offers of employment in universities in France and the USA, but she refused them, returning to Romania. At the beginning of the twentieth century, becoming a university professor of philosophy in the country proved impossible – such positions were the prerogative of men – so she focused on the aesthetics and history of theatre, becoming, in 1922, tenure-track professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art in Bucharest.

After the communists took power, because she had disagreed with the authorities’ policy, her existence became extremely difficult: in 1948, she was forced to retire, and in 1951, she was arrested and spent a year and seven months in prison. She then had a compulsory residence in Costesti Township, Iasi County, until 1954. After returning to Bucharest, she survived due to a small pension and the earnings obtained from her work as a translator. She remained in the history of the Romanian culture through the books of philosophy, aesthetics and theatre she published, but also through her remarkable Journal, which includes, in addition to events from her own life, document-pages about people and events from the interwar period and the communist period.

Smaranda Brăescu (1897-1948), represented on the stamp with the face value of Lei 1.50, was the first female parachutist with a license in Romania and held, in the 1930s, skydiving (parachuting) world records. She became passionate about aviation from a young age and took specialized courses in Germany, obtaining the international skydiving license. On October 2nd, 1931, she set her first record, which she wanted to achieve in Romania: she broke the women’s world record and the European men’s parachute jump record, jumping from a height of 6,000 m. Then, her ambition took her further, in America, to try to break the absolute world record. After hard training and great difficulties in obtaining a plane and the authorization to perform the jump, she succeeded. On May 19th, 1932, in Sacramento, USA, she set a new skydiving world record: 7,233 m. Later, she obtained the pilot license, and during the Second World War she worked in Romania as a skydiving instructor and as a volunteer pilot in medical aviation. Sentenced in absentia to imprisonment by the communist regime for signing a protest against the forgery of the 1946 elections, she was forced to hide for years under an alias, until she died in 1948. Even if at present the skydiving world record is over 41,000 m, Smaranda Braescu’s performances remain exceptional for that time. For the world records she obtained, she was declared, in 1932, the “World No. 1 Sportswoman”.

Women’s Day special

'Great Women of India' 

-Sekhar Chakrabarti

On this International Women's Day, let me introduce here some of the 'Great Women of India' who had contributed for the cause of Indian Flag and became part of its history.

1) SISTER NIVEDITA (Margaret Nobel); Designer of the first flag for the aspiring Indian nation in 1904.


Maker of the first flag hoisted on the Boycott Day on 6th August 1906 in Calcutta during Anti-partition Movement of Bengal.

3) MRS.BIKHAJI RUSTAM CAMA who first raised an Indian flag on a foreign soil on 22 August,1907 during the Second International Socialist Congress at Stuttgart, Germany.

4) MRS. ANNIE BESSANT, one of the original creators of Home Rule Flag of India in 1917.

5) SUBHADRA KUMARI CHAUHAN was the first person to court arrest for hoisting the Swaraj Flag at Jabbalpur on 18 March 1923. 

6) ARUNA ASAF ALI on August 9,1942 hoisted the Tricolour at the Gowalia Tank Maidan, Bombay to formally announce the commencement of the "Quit India Movement".

7) MATANGINI HAZRA, at the ripe age of 70 became the first woman flag martyr from Bengal on 29 Sept 1942 during the Quit India Movement.

8) KANAKLATA BARUA of Assam, a young girl then, was shot dead on 20 September 1942 while attempting to hoist the National Flag atop a police station at Gohpur.

9) MRS BADR-ud-Din TAYEBJI, maker of the present national flag of India in July 1947.

10) MRS.SAROJINI NAIDU, the only lady speaker during the Constituent Assembly "Flag Debates" on July 22, 1947.

11) MRS HANSA MEHTA representing the Flag Presentation Committee comprising the women members of the Constituent Assembly presented the first Flag as a gift from the "Women of India" which was hoisted on the Parliament building on the day India  was granted freedom on 15 August 1947.

12) MRS. INDIRA GANDHI, India's first female Prime Minister hoisted the Flag at Red Fort on Independence Day, total 16 times. 

Women Freedom Fighters of India : Bharat ki Veeranganaen

- Eeshita Basu Roy

India became Independent on 15th August 1947. Independence did not come easily .The entire history of the freedom movement is replete with the saga of bravery, sacrifice and political sagacity of great men and women of the country. The list of great women whose names have gone down in history for their dedication and undying devotion to the service of India is a long one. There are endless number of women who daringly fought for India’s freedom with their true spirit and undaunted courage and had faced various tortures, exploitations and hardships to earn us freedom that we enjoy today in our motherland India.

It is a very difficult task to list out all Women freedom fighters and equally difficult to segregate a few amongst them. With all respect and due apologies, furnishing below is a brief note on selected few women freedom fighters. 


     Woman's participation in India's freedom struggle began as early as 1817 when Bhima BaiHolkar fought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and defeated him in guerilla warfare. In 1824 Rani Channama of Kittur resisted the armed might of the East Indian Company.

Kittur Rani Channamma(23 October 1778 – 02 February 1829)

KitturChannamma was the Queen of Kittur, a princely state in Karnataka. She was one of the Indian female ruler to lead an armed rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824 because of the effect of doctrine of lapse. The resistance ended with her arrest and she became a symbol of the independence movement in India. In the state of Karnataka, she is celebrated along with Abbakka RaniKeladiChennamma and OnakeObavva, as the foremost women warriors and patriots. Chennamma was a member of the Lingayat.

Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi (Jhansi ki Rani )(19 November 1828 – 17 June 1858) 

Rani Lakshmi Bai was one of the leading warriors of India’s freedom struggle who laid an outstanding influence on the succeeding women freedom fighters.She used to go into the battlefield dressed as a man. Holding the reins of their horse in her mouth she used the sword with both hands. She fought valiantly and although beaten she refused to surrender and fell as a warrior should, fighting the enemy to the last. Her remarkable courage inspired many men and women in India to rise against alien rule.

A commemorative postage stamp on Martyrs of The First War of Independence, 1857 revolution.The stamp depicts M. F. Hussain’s painting on Rani Laxmi Bai.


Jhalkari bai of Jhansi (November 22, 1830 –1890)

Lost in the pages of history is the tale of an incredible warrior and woman named Jhalkari Bai.Hailing from a humble background, she rose the ranks to become an advisor to the legendary Rani Laxmibai. In fact, so courageous was she that during the battle of fort of Jhansi, she disguised herself as Rani Laxmibai and took command of the army, thus giving the real queen a chance to escape in the meantime.

A prominent fighter during the Rebellion of 1857, one woman driven by sheer fortitude and courage was able to strike fear in the hearts of the British army and leave behind a rich legacy for millions to emulate.

Sarojini Naidu (The Nightingale of India) (13 February 1879 –  02 March 1949)



Sarojini Naidu, was a distinguished poet, renowned freedom fighter and one of the great orators of her time. She was elected as the president of Indian National Congress. The dynamic phase of Sarojini’s career was from 1917-1919.


She campaigned for the Khilafat Movement.When Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement, she proved a faithful lieutenant. After Gandhi's arrest she had prepared 2,000 volunteers under the scorching sun to raid the Dhahran Salt Works. She gave up writing poetry and fully devoted herself to emancipation of women, education unity etc. She became a follower of Gandhiji and accompanied him to England.


  Begum Hazrat Mahal (1820—1879)


Begum Hazrat Mahal was a great Indian freedom-fighter who played a major role during India's First War of independence (1857-58). She was also known as the Begum of Awadh (Oudh) and was the wife of the then Lucknow ruler, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. 

She led a band of her supporters against the British, and was even able to seize the control of Lucknow. She worked in close association with other leaders of India’s First War of Independence, including Nana Sahib. Begum was not only a strategist but also fought on the battlefield. When the forces under the command of the British re-captured Lucknow and most part of the Awadh, she was forced to retreat. When her forces lost ground, she fled Oudh and organized soldiers again in other places. She turned down all offers of amnesty and allowances by the British rulers. 

Finally, she took refuge in an asylum in Nepal, where she died in the year 1879. To acknowledge her endless effort in fighting for the freedom of country, the Government of India issued a stamp on 10th May 1984.

 Matangini Hazra  (19 October 1870 – 29 September 1942)

Matangini Hazra was an Indian revolutionary who participated in the Indian independence movement until she was shot dead by the British Indian police in front of the Tamluk Police Station (of erstwhile Midnapore District) on 29 September 1942. She was affectionately known as Gandhi buri, Bengali for old lady Gandhi.

Madam Bhikaiji Cama (24 September 1861 - 13 August 1936)

Madam BhikaijiCama fought for the freedom of the country till the last in her own way, and helped many revolutionaries with money and materials. She unfurled the first National Flag at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1907.She declared “This flag is of Indian Independence! Behold, it is born! It has been made sacred by the blood of young Indians who sacrificed their lives. I call upon you, gentlemen to rise and salute this flag of Indian Independence. In the name of this flag, I appeal to lovers of freedom all over the world to support this flag." She traveled a lot of places including America to propagate Americans about Indians struggling for Independence.

Rani Gaidinliu (Rani of the Nagas)   (26 January 1915- 17 February 1993)

Born in Nangkao village of Manipur she came in contact with the political and spiritual leader of the Nagas,Haripau Jadonang who started a movement to drive away the British from Manipur. When Jadonang was hanged by the British,Gaidinliu took over the leadership and challenged the Britishers. The British Govt. tried to suppress her movement. She went underground. The army made a house to house search and finally captured her in 1932 and sentenced her to life imprisonment. Jawaharlal Nehru called her "Rani of the Nagas" for her indomitable spirit and aggressive fight against the British. She spent more than 15 years in jail and was released only after Independence. She was honoured with Tamrapatra and Padma Bhushan.She died on 17-02-1993.

 Aruna Asaf Ali(16 July 1909  -  29 July 1996)

Aruna Asaf Ali was born in a Bengali Brahma Samaj family at Kalka in Haryana. She married Asaf Ali a prominent lawyer of Delhi against convention. She actively participated in the National Movement for Independence. Following the arrest of all congress leaders in 1942 she went underground to guide the movement evading police arrest. She became the symbol of the spirit of youth in this country guiding and leading the National Movement from underground. She remained underground till 1946 when the warrant of arrest was withdrawn. Aruna belonged to the heroic age of Freedom Movement. With this background, after Independence she could not adjust to the political realities and chose to live in retirement till her death on 29th July 1996. She was awarded Bharat Ratna (1997) Posthumously.

Annie Besant(1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933)

From the time she landed in India in 1893 and till her death in 1933, Annie Besant worked wholeheartedly for the advancement of India in every field - educational, social, religious, and political. Though born an English woman she turned into an Indian by her love for this country. She was the founder of the Theosophical Society in Madras.

In 1917 she was elected the Congress President at the Calcutta Session. With the active support of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Rt. Honourable V.S. Srinivasa Shastry Annie Besant worked wholeheartedly towards the fulfillment of Indian political aspirations. She died in 1933.

  Kasturba Gandhi   (Ba) (11 April 1869 – 22 February 1944)

She was the daughter of GokuladasMakharji of Porbunder. She was married to Gandhi at the age of 13. Simple and self- effacing she stood devotedly by her great husband in all his trials and tribulations. She was in the thick of the Freedom Movement and went to jail several times. The shock of country wide arrests during Quit India Movement deteriorated her health and she suffered a severe heart attack. She breathed her last on 22-2-1944.

Kamala Nehru  (1 August 1899 – 28 February 1936)


She was the daughter of Pandit Jawaharlal Mul, a businessman of Delhi. Married to Jawaharlal Nehru at the age of 17 she gave birth to the only daughter Indira Priyadarshini. Within 3 years of marriage her husband plunged into Non-cooperation Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Kamala was a woman of great courage and determination and she also threw herself into the Civil Disobedience Movement and the historic Dandi March by Mahatma Gandhi. Her brave and heroic role in the freedom struggle left an indelible imprint on the Nationalist Movement. She died at a very young age on 28-02-1936.

 Durgabai Deshmukh (15 July 1909 – 9 May 1981)


She was the mother of social work in India. She was born in a middles class Andhra family in Kakinada. In 1937 she founded Andhra Mahila Sabha in Madras which to-day runs two hospitals, 2 colleges and 3 high schools. As Member of Parliament she worked to set up a social welfare board on 13-8-1953 to carry out programmes of educating, training and rehabilitating the needy women, children and the disabled. She was the recipient of a number of awards including Padma Bhushan and the UNESCO award for outstanding work in the field of literacy.

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (2 February 1889 – 6 February 1964)


Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was an eminent Gandhian, a freedom fighter, and a social activist.She was also a member of the Constituent Assembly, the body that framed the constitution of India. She was the first health minister of independent India & served for ten years in the capacity. She co-founded the All India Women's Conference in 1927 and participated in Gandhi-led 240-mile Dandi March in 1930. In 1942, she participated in the Quit India Movement, and the Raj authorities imprisoned her.

Nellie Sengupta ( 1 December 1886 - 23 October 1973 )


Nellie Sengupta was an Englishwoman who fought for Indian Independence. She was born as Edith Ellen Gray, and was the daughter of Frederick and Edith Henrietta Gray. She was born and brought up in Cambridge. As a young girl, she fell in love with Jatindra Mohan Sengupta, a young Bengali student at Downing College who lodged at her parental home. Despite parental opposition, she married Jatindra Mohan and returned to Calcutta with him. Nellie joined her husband in participating in the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1921 and was even imprisioned.She was elected president of the Indian National Congress at its 47th annual session at Calcutta in 1933.

 Pandita Ramabai  (23 April 1858 – 5 April 1922)


PanditaRamabai was a social worker, scholar and a champion of women's rights, freedom and education. PanditaRamabai participated in the freedom movement and was one of the 10 women delegates of the Congress session of 1889. She founded Arya MahilaSamaj . The purpose of the society was to promote the cause of women's education and deliverance from the oppression of child marriage.

Meera Behn  (22 November 1892 – 20 July 1982)

Madeleine Slade (MiraBehn) daughter of the British Rear-Admiral Sir Edmond Slade, was a British woman who left her home in Britain to live and work with Mohandas Gandhi, the leader of the Indian Independence Movement. She devoted her life to human development, the advancement of Gandhi's principles. She was christened “Meera” by Gandhiji. She joined the Satyagrahmovement and was jailed thrice. She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1982

.Kamala devi Chattopadhyay  (3 April 1903 – 29 October 1988)



Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was an Indian social reformer and freedom fighter. She is most remembered for her contribution to the Indian independence movement; for being the driving force behind the renaissance of Indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre in independent India; and for upliftment of the socio-economic standard of Indian women by pioneering the co-operative movement.

In 1974, she was awarded the Sangeet NatakAkademi Fellowship the highest honour conferred by the Sangeet NatakAkademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.

Savitri Bai Phule (3 January 1831 – 10 March 1897) 

Savitri bai Phule was an Indian social reformer, educationalist, and poet from Maharashtra. She is regarded as the first female teacher of India. Along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule, she played an important and vital role in improving women's rights in India.

Rani Avanti Bai (16 August 1831 - 20 March 1858)

Avantibai Lodhi was an Indian freedom fighter and the queen of Ramgarh in Madhya Pradesh. Avanti Bai was married to King Vikramaditya Lodhi of Ramgarh (today in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh) at an early age. Fiercely independent as a young girl, she was well-trained in sword fighting, archery, cavalry, military strategy, diplomacy and all other subjects of statecraft. This was why, when Vikramiditya fell into ill-health, it was Avanti Bai who rose to the occasion and took over the reins of Ramgarh’s administration. Even after the king’s death, the Lodhi kingdom continued to flourish under its queen’s able guidance.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan  (1904 -1948) 

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. She initially studied in the Crosthwaite Girls' School in Allahabad and passed the middle-school examination in 1919. After her marriage with Thakur Lakshman Singh Chauhan of Khandwa in the same year, she moved to Jabalpur.

In 1921, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan and her husband joined Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement. She was the first woman Satyagrahi to court arrest in Nagpur and was jailed twice for her involvement in protests against British rule in 1923 and 1942.

Chauhan has authored a number of popular works in Hindi poetry. Her most famous composition is Jhansi Ki Rani, an emotionally charged poem describing the life of Rani Lakshmi Bai.

Rukmini Lakshimipathi  (6 December 1892 – 6 August 1951)

Rukmini Laxmipathi was an Indian independence activist and politician belonging to the Indian National Congress. She was the first woman to be elected to the Madras Legislature and the first to serve as a minister in the Madras Presidency.

-Eeshita Basu Roy  : email : eeshita2015@gmail.com 

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