Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
(1887 – 1964) – (Uttar Pradesh)
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (Aged 77) who was born on February 2, 1887, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India, was a driving force behind many important welfare organizations in India. Inspired by Gandhi, she devoted her life to active service associated with a variety of welfare groups and organizations. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was the first woman to hold a post in the cabinet, serving as Minister of Health from 1947 to 1957. After this, she remained a member of the Rajya Sabha until her death on February 2, 1964. She was a founding member of the All-India Women’s Conference and the Indian Red Cross, and served as Chairperson of their managing bodies. It is difficult to list all the organizations she had either founded or headed, but a few names would suffice to show her multifaceted personality.
For example, she served as President of the Lady Irwin College in New Delhi, founder president of the Delhi Music Society, founder of the Indian Council for Child Welfare, and head of national and local branches of the Y.W.C.A., the St. John Ambulance Brigade, the Tuberculosis Association, the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness, and the Hind Kushta Nivaran Sangh (Indian Society for the Prevention of Leprosy).
As a member of the Congress Party under Gandhi’s inspiration, she took part in the Salt Campaign and was arrested in Bombay. She was convicted on July 16, 1937, and imprisoned on a charge of sedition. During the Quit India Movement in 1942, she led many processions, one of which was subjected to a ruthless lathi charge in Shimla.
Perhaps the most remarkable project she launched is the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, which she founded and for which she raised funds and drew technological assistance from various countries. At her insistence, a policy was established whereby medical students must spend three months of their internship in a village. She frequently represented India at UNESCO and WHO conferences.
Her interest in sports continued throughout her lifetime. She was the founder and President of the National Sports Club of India and started the Rajkumari Sports Coaching Scheme, which was merged with the National Institute of Sports set up in 1961, with her as President, under the Union Education Ministry. She championed many causes, but her interest and dedication were far from superficial. The sincerity and warmth of her personality won her friends all over the world, and her capacity to give substance to her ideals has ensured their longevity. She passed away on February 6, 1964, in New Delhi, India.