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Bhikaiji Cama

(1861 – 1936) – (Maharashtra)

Bhikaiji Rustom Cama (Aged 75) born on 24 September 1861, was a prominent figure in the Indian independence movement. She came from a large and affluent Parsi Zoroastrian family in Bombay (now Mumbai), with parents who were influential members of the Parsi community. Her father, Sorabji, was a lawyer and merchant, and her mother, Jaijibai, was a homemaker. Bhikaiji attended Alexandra Girls’ English Institution, where she showed diligence, discipline, and a flair for languages.

In 1885, Bhikaiji married Rustom Cama, the son of K. R. Cama, a wealthy, pro-British lawyer who aspired to enter politics. Although the marriage was unhappy, Bhikaiji remained involved in philanthropic activities and social work. In 1904, while preparing to return to India, she met Shyamji Krishna Varma, a well-known nationalist speaker in London’s Indian community. Through him, she met Dadabhai Naoroji, then president of the British Committee of the Indian National Congress, and worked for him as a private secretary.

Together with Naoroji and Singh Rewabhai Rana, Cama supported the founding of Varma’s Indian Home Rule Society in February 1905. Later that year, Cama relocated to Paris, where she co-founded the Paris Indian Society with S. R. Rana and Munchershah Burjorji Godrej. Along with other notable members of the Indian sovereignty movement living in exile, Cama wrote, published, and distributed revolutionary literature in the Netherlands and Switzerland for the movement. These weeklies were smuggled into India through the French colony of Pondichéry.

In 1907, Cama was invited to hoist the flag over the parliament in Germany. Several Indian cities have streets and places named after Bhikaiji Cama, also known as Madame Cama. She passed away on 13 August 1936.