The first female Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi has graced many a stamp—not just in India, but also internationally. She was known for her iron will, and is among the most noteworthy politicians in the world. In fact, in 1999, she was named ‘Woman of the Millennium’ in a BBC poll.
The first Indian woman to grace a postal stamp, Mirabai was a royal, who gave up her privileges to become a Krishna devotee. One of the key saints of the Bhakti Movement, Mirabai’s bhajans, dedicated to the supreme lord, turned her into
ARUNA ASAF ALI
An independence activist, Aruna Asaf Ali was dubbed as the Heroine of the Quit India Movement as she put things in motion by hoisting the flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay in 1942. Post independence, Aruna remained active in politics, and also became Delhi’s first Mayor.
A flight attendant for Pan Am, Neerja died while helping passengers escape from Flight 73, which was hijacked by terrorists during a stop-over in Karachi, Pakistan. Neerja’s act of heroism made her (posthumously) win the Ashoka Chakra Award and has also inspired the Sonam Kapoor Ahuja-starrer biopic, Neerja.
VIJAYA LAKSHMI PANDIT
An Indian diplomat and politician, Vijaya was elected as the first female President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1953. She was also sent to London as India’s most important diplomat after serving as Nehru’s envoy to the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Nations.
In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity—a religious congregation that manages homes for people suffering from tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV/AIDS. Also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, she received the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize and the 1972 Nobel
A pioneer in education and the emancipation of women in India, she was the first woman to be accorded the titles of Pandita (a Sanskrit scholar) and Saraswati by the University of Calcutta. She was one of the 10 women delegates at the Congress session in 1889,
and the Founder of Mukti Mission, a home for destitute women and children.
A noted poet (which earned her the title, Nightingale of India) and an independence activist, Sarojini Naidu became the President of the Indian National Congress in 1925, and was also the first woman to be appointed the Governor of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh).
A truly iconic Indian actress, Nargis Dutt’s film Mother India was India’s first submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language. She was the first patron of the Spastic Society of India, and Nargis’ work with them earned her a Rajya Sabha nomination.
Known as the first female teacher of India, Savitribai Phule was a poet and social reformer. She played an important role in improving women’s rights in the country during the British rule, and worked towards abolishing discrimination based on caste
RAJKUMARI AMRIT KAUR
A royal, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was a social activist and freedom fighter. A staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi, she was a member of the Constituent Assembly, and went on to become the first Health Minister of India (and served for 10 years as the same).
BEGUM HAZRAT MAHAL
She took charge of the state of Awadh and seized control of Lucknow after her husband (Nawab Wajid Ali Shah) was exiled to Calcutta. Begum Hazrat Mahal also organised an army of women and actively took part in the revolt of 1857.
A woman of many firsts, Rukmini Lakshmipathi joined the Indian National Congress in 1923. She was the first female prisoner in the Salt Satyagraha Movement (1930), later became the first woman to be elected to the Madras Legislature and the first to serve as a minister in the Madras Presidency.
RUKMINI DEVI NEELAKANDA SASTRI
Featured in India Today’s list of ‘100 women Who Shaped India’, Rukmini Devi is responsible for the revival of Bharatanatyam from its original sadir style. A Padma Bhushan awardee, she was the first woman in Indian history to be nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
JIJABAI SHAHAJI BHOSALE
Referred to as Rajmata Jijabai, she was the mother of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Founder of the Maratha Empire. She’s known as the guiding force who inspired Shivaji to fight against the Mughal empire, and the silent source of strength behind all his victories.