Sarala Devi : First elected woman legislator of Odisha

As I told previously in these 21 days of lockdown I'll share 21 blogs about some great personalities of Odisha.
So here is the tenth day of lockdown and I'm sharing my tenth writeup on Sarala Devi. 
Sarala Devi was born on 9 August 1904 at Narilo,Balikuda, Jagatsinghpur to Zamindar Dewan Basudev Kanungo and Padmavati Devi, but she was raised by her father's elder brother, Balamukunda Kanungo, who was a deputy collector. In 1917, She was married to well-known lawyer Bhagirathi Mahapatra. 
Sarala had her primary education in Banki, From a very young age, she rebelled against restrictions. In those days, girls were not allowed to pursue higher studies, however, her uncle hired a home tutor. It was her keen interest in education that she became fluent in Odia, Bengali, Hindi and English.

Sarala Devi joined the Indian National Congress in 1918. During Mahatma Gandhi's first visit to Odisha, She was very close to Mahatma Gandhi. 
Those days women used to sit behind curtains and listen to the speeches, but not only did Sarala Devi came out from behind the barriers, she also gave a fierce speech in a conference organised in Cuttack for freedom struggle in 1924.
She participated in the Salt Satyagraha at Inchudi in Balasore and also travelled to various districts of Odisha. She was arrested by the British at the Chhatrapur jail, later she was transferred to Vellore jail from where she was released after six months. She was given a huge public reception on her return to Cuttack on December 8, 1930.
She was the Secretary of Utkal Sahitya Samaj at Cuttack from 1943 to 1946.

Sarala Devi was the first elected woman legislator of Odisha. She was elected from Cuttack. 
In the house she fought for the development of women education, discouraged the child mortality rate, raised voice against early marriage, Sati, property rights for widows, dowry system. She argued and succeeded in providing scholarships, free books, clothes for Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe students. 
Her advice during the second world war to control the price of essential commodities was praiseworthy.

Sarala Devi tried her hand at many genres including poetry, drama and fiction. However, it is mostly as an essayist and letter writer that she excelled and put to effective use her fiery spirit as a rebel, social activist and reformer. She wrote 30 books and 300 essays. Some of her famous works are "Utkalaa Nari Samasya", "Narira Dabi", "Bharatiya Mahila Prasanga", "Rabindra Puja" , "Beera Ramani" and "Bishwa Biplabani". 

In "Bishwa Biplabani", Sarala offers the narratives of several famous women. 
In "Utkalaa Nari Samasya", Sarala's views are marked by a deep sympathy and concern for women's plight. 
She outlines a manifesto for women's empowerment, In "Narira Dabi". 
Sarala displayed a maturity of vision, a sharp perception and an extraordinary range of interests in all her writings. 

Sarala Devi was first woman of Odisha to:
  • Join the Non-cooperation Movement. 
  • Wear Khadi. 
  • Deliver speech in INC, Karachi session. 
  • Represent in Nehru’s Planning Commission. 
  • Be a member of Senate Board of Utkal University. 
  • Join the educational committee constituted by Dr. Radhakrishnan. 
  • Be prisoner of Odisha by breaking salt law. 
  • Be member of All India Congress Committee. 
  • Be elected twice to standing committee of All India Women Conference. 
  • Be awarded twice by Orissa Sahitya Academy. 
  • Be elected as Woman Legislator of Orissa Legislative Assembly. 
  • Be act as a temporary speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly. 
  • Be the Director of Indian Women Bank. 
  • Be the Vice President of Utkal Sahitya Samaj. 
  • Be the President of Women Development Co-operative Society. 
  • Be create a political consciousness among Oriya Women through her writings. 
Sarala Devi was way ahead of her time. Even though she came from a modest educational background, she emerged as one of the prolific writers of Orissa.For all the women activists, reformists, feminists Sarala Devi is a role model and leader.

References :
  • The Hindu
  • UnUth
  • IncredibleOrissa