Born on 3 April 1903 in Mangalore, Chattopadhyay gradually emerged as one of the few feminist freedom fighters the country has seen. Even after India’s independence in 1947, she continued to work for the refugees and also contributed to the cultural landscape.
She further worked relentlessly for the upliftment of the socio-economic standard of the Indian women by pioneering the cooperative movement.
She lost her father at the age of seven, was married at the age of 14 and lost her husband at the age of 16. A widow at a very young age, Kamla devi travelled to London to study. She joined Indian National Congress in 1927 and gradually became the first Indian woman to be arrested by British for entering Bombay Stock Exchange and sell packets of contraband salt in 1930.
Chattopadhyay is not just remembered for her contribution in India’s freedom movement but for also being the driving force behind the renaissance of Indian handicrafts, handlooms and theatre in independent India.
She is regarded as the visionary behind the famous New Delhi-situated theatre institute National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India.
She is also the recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.Chattopadhyay has also authored several books dealing with the International relations including Japan-its weakness and strength, Uncle Sam’s empire and In war-torn China.
She was also the first Indian women to run for a political office. In 1926, after she met the founder of All India Women’s Congress, Margaret Cousins, Kamladevi contested for a seat in Madras Legislative assembly, however, she lost by just 55 votes.
A rare woman whose vision gifted India so many of its iconic cultural institutions, Kamaladevi passed away on October 29, 1988, at the age of 85.