Some of well known Reddy Women Trend Setters
Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy. She rose in revolt against child marriage and the devadasi system. Muthulakshmi was a freedom fighter and a patriot. She was one of the women pioneers who stood for the cause of liberating India from the British. She was a women activist and a social reformer too. She had many firsts to her recognition. She was the first girl student to be admitted into a Men`s College, the first woman House Surgeon in the Government Maternity and Ophthalmic Hospital, the first woman legislator in British India, the first Chairperson of the State Social Welfare Advisory Board and the first woman Deputy President of the Legislative Council and the first Alderwoman of the Madras Corporation. She was awarded Padma Bhushan by the President of India in 1956. Her two outstanding monumental gifts for humanity are the Avvai Home (for children) and the Cancer Institute.
Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi was born on 1886 in a middleclass family at Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu. She passed the matriculation through private studies and was coached by her own father. She was the first woman surgeon who emerged in flying colors and was married to Dr. Sundera Reddi FRCS. The two great personalities who influenced her life were Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Annie Besant. They persuaded her to devote herself for the upliftment of women and children. She worked for women`s emancipation at a time when women were confined in the four walls of their room.
She went to England for higher studies and she gave up her rewarding practice in response to a request from the Women`s Indian Association (WTA) to enter the Madras Legislative Council. She was elected unanimously as its Deputy President. She led the agitation for municipal and legislative franchise for women. She was concerned about the orphans, especially girls. She arranged for them free boarding and lodging and started the Avvai Home in Madras. This institution is still providing education and vocational training to many destitute girls.
Muthulakshmi was the author of numerous social reforms. Her book My Experience as a Legislator records all her services in the Legislature. She passed a resolution to establish a special hospital for women and children. The then Government accepted her suggestion and opened a children`s section in the maternity hospital. She recommended systematic medical inspection of students in all schools and colleges, run by municipalities as well as other local bodies. Kasturba Hospital at Triplicane is a monument to her efforts.
Muthulakshmi was the President of the All-India Women`s Conference. She passed the Bill for the suppression of brothels and immoral trafficking in women and children. A home for rescued girls and women were opened through her efforts to provide shelter to women and girls rescued from brothels. Due to her efforts a hostel for Muslim girls was opened and scholarships were given for Harijan girls. She recommended to the Government that the minimum age for marriage be raised to at least 21 for boys and 16 for girls.
Muthulakshmi started the Cancer Relief fund. This has now developed into an all-India institution combining therapy and research on cancer and attracting patients from all over India. She became the first Chairperson of the State Social Welfare Board. Her work on the Hartog Education Committee, which incorporated a study of educational progress in India, is a great achievement. As a member of the Hartog Committee she traveled extensively and studied the progress of women`s education throughout the country. She was the only woman member of the committee and brought about many improvements She was the editor of Roshini, an important journal of AIWC.
She was a very courageous and fearless woman she never feared any party or Government. She was a very confident woman and had to undergo many challenges from her childhood to her last breath. Whatever project she undertook she came out with success. She never feared defeat in her life. Even at the age of 80, she was energetic and vibrant. Her human preoccupations took her away from politics. She stuck to her mission and Gandhian ways. Although she lost her vision towards the end of her life, she was firm in her decisions and lived for fulfilling her causes. She could never tolerate any harm or injustice done to women in any corner of the world. She breathed her last on 1968.
Smt. PONAKA KANAKAMMA (1892-1963)
Smt. Kanakamma was born at Potlapudi village of Nellore district on June 10, 1892. At the age of 9 she was married to her maternal uncle, Ponaka Subbarami Reddy. Her child marriage did not affect her future development. On the contrary it gave a boost to her political life, sprit of sacrifice and her service-oriented programmes. Her husband gave her unstinted support. In 1913, with the assistance of relatives and friends, she founded Sujanaranjani Samajam and Vivekananda Library in her village Potlapudi – a sure sign of her enlightened mind. Self-educated, she blossomed into a poetess and cultivated literary contacts with Rayaprolu Subba Rao, Deepala Pichaiah Sastri, Duvvuri Rami Reddy, Dronamraju Lakshmibayamma – all Telugu poets of national awareness.
As early as 1913 she moulded Potlapudi to become the centre for the production of khadi and for the boycott of foreign goods. In 1916 she joined hands with Paturi Subba Ramaiah, Smt. Bala Saraswathamma, Vennelakanti Raghavaiah and C.V. Krishna in establishing contacts with members of the revolutionary movement. She met Darsi Chenchaiah, the Ghadar hero, soon after his release from jail and they worked together in promoting widow remarriage. In 1920 she set up a hostel for Harijans in Potlapudi. Her spirit of sacrifice and renunciation can be gauged from her remarkable gesture in donating her entire jewellery to Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 at the beginning of the Non-cooperation Movement. She never again wore even a single ornament. She was the first woman from Andhra to be elected to the All India Congress Committee.
In 1923 she founded the Kasturidevi Vidyalaya which was inaugurated by Prakasam Panthulu. This institution started vocational education also. This was perhaps the first polytechnic of its kind founded in Andhra Pradesh not only to educate the women but to make them feel self-confident by learning some trade for self-support.
Rallapalli Rama Subbaiah, a freedom-fighter, was its first principal. Gandhiji laid the foundation stone for its own buildings in 1929. She suffered from a broken shoulder in 1931 when the police resorted to brutal lathi change to disperse the people picketing foreign goods. Despite her serious injury she participated in the Salt Satyagraha and went to prison. Together with N.G. Ranga and Nellore Venkatarama Naidu she waged a relentless battle for the abolition of the Zamindari system. All her property was confiscated by the Venkatagiri Zamindar. She had to fight the legal battle besides the political one. She never gave in though she had to face severe financial difficulties. A noble and indefatigable fighter, Ponaka Kanakamma breathed her last on the 15th of September 1963.
SMT. DODLA RUKMINAMMA (1903-54)
Rukminamma belonged to the Bezawada family which helped Nellore enjoy a prestigious position in the national struggle. Her father, Bezawada Balakrishna Reddy, was the first graduate in the Reddy community of the district. Her mother was Smt. Kanakamma. Inspired by the library movement, Balakrishna Reddy started a library and reading room in Buchireddipalem more than 100 years ago. He was a great harbinger of enlightened patriotism. Rukminamma imbibed patriotism from her father and spirit of sacrifice from her grandmother. She married Dodla Rami Reddy who belonged to the family that traditionally supported the British rulers. Still she retained her individuality and kept up the spirit of patriotism as her family inheritance. On the lawns of her house Gandhiji exhorted the women assembled there to donate liberally to the Harijan Fund. Rukminamma at once donated her necklace and bangles. Others like Smt. Satyavolu Subbamma followed her example and donated their bangles. Rukminamma provided dining facilities to many poor students who come from upland areas. She used to exhaust tons of paddy in a fortnight. She became popular as “Dokka Sitamma” of Nellore. Her generosity and charity rendered her penniless in her last days. Bezawada Sivakota Reddy, her brother, followed her example and ran the Harijan Hostel unmindful of the government grant. He was a progressive who imbibed Leftist political ideology. In 1932 he underwent rigorous imprisonment for one year in Madras and Vellore jails for his participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement.