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Durgabai Deshmukh

(1909 – 1981) – (Andhra Pradesh)

Durgabai-Deshmukh

Lady Deshmukh (Aged 71) also known as Durgābāi Deshmukh, was born on 15 July 1909, Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India. She was an Indian freedom fighter, lawyer, social worker, and politician. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and the Planning Commission of India. As a public activist for women’s emancipation, she established the Andhra Mahila Sabha (Andhra Women’s Conference) in 1937 and was the founder chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board.

In her personal life, she married C.D. Deshmukh in 1953, who was the first Indian governor of the Reserve Bank of India and Finance Minister in India’s Central Cabinet from 1950-1956.

Durgābāi Deshmukh followed Mahatma Gandhi during India’s struggle for freedom from the British Raj. She never wore jewelry or cosmetics and was a satyagrahi, a person who practices nonviolent resistance. She was also a prominent social reformer who participated in Gandhi-led Salt Satyagraha activities during the Civil Disobedience Movement and organized women satyagrahis in the movement. Her participation led to her imprisonment by British Raj authorities three times between 1930 and 1933.

After her release from prison, Durgābāi Deshmukh continued her studies and earned her B.A and M.A in political science in the 1930s from Andhra University. She then obtained her law degree from Madras University in 1942 and started practicing as an advocate in Madras High Court.

As a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, Durgābāi Deshmukh was instrumental in the enactment of many social welfare laws. She was also the only woman in the panel of Chairmen in the Constituent Assembly. To honor her legacy, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam has named its Department of Women’s Studies the Dr. Durgābāi Deshmukh Centre for Women’s Studies.

She passed away by May 1981, Narasannapeta, Andhra Pradesh, India.