In one woman’s lifetime

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On Nov. 19, 1917—the same year the first edition of World Book was published—a girl who would play a major role in the history of India was born in the northern city of Allahabad. Although the child couldn’t know it, she was born at a time when her family and homeland were on the brink of a transformation.

The article on India in the 1917 edition of World Book described the important role of that land as part of the British Empire. Because India’s large population was so diverse, the article said, the people possessed “no feeling of nationality.” However, the article did acknowledge that there had already been several “risings” that were “inspired by men of the educated classes who dreamed of a free and self-governing India.” In 1917, Indian nationalism was indeed growing.

In the 1920’s, the little girl’s father and grandfather became active supporters of independence for India and of the great Indian reformer, Mohandas K. Gandhi. In 1928, her grandfather, Motilal Nehru, wrote the Nehru Report, which outlined a new constitution for India. In 1942, the girl, now a young woman, married Feroze Gandhi (who was not related to Mohandas K. Gandhi). She and Feroze also worked for independence and would be imprisoned for 13 months for their actions.

India finally won its independence in 1947, and the young woman’s father, Jawaharlal Nehru, became its first prime minister. In 1953, her aunt, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, became the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile, the young woman worked closely with her father, who was prime minister until his death in 1964. From 1964 until 1966, she served in India’s Parliament. In 1966, she became India’s first woman prime minister. Her name was Indira Gandhi. Unimaginable changes had taken place in India—and the world—in one woman’s lifetime.

To read more about those changes, you may want to look at these articles in the 2017 edition of World Book: Gandhi, Indira; Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand; India, History of; Indian National Congress; Nehru; Pandit, Vijaya Lakshmi.)


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