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URMILA DEVI (1883-1956)

Urmila Devi was a freedom fighter. She was the sister of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das. She was born at Telirbagh near Dhaka in an upper middle class Hindu Vaidya family. Her early education was at Loreto Convent in Calcutta (now Kolkata). She was married in her teens to Ananta Narayan Sen, but continued her studies after marriage. In the 1920s her brother’s house was a centre of political activity, and she too was drawn into the struggle. She became a widow in 1920 and to distract herself from the bereavement, she threw herself into the Non Co-operation Movement.

She defied the ban on selling khadi and was arrested in 1921, along with her sister-in-law Basanti Devi (q.v.) the same year. She nevertheless set up the Nari Karma Mandir in order to popularise spinning and weaving among women. Initially Hemprabha Mazumdar, one of the five founders of Chittaranjan’s Swaraj Party, assisted her in running the Mandir and when ill health forced Urmila Devi to withdraw, Hemprabha took over. Urmila Devi wrote numerous articles on the efforts of women to further the cause of khaddar and swadeshi. In 1921 she described in Banglar Katha, a Bengali weekly, how young Bengali girls were travelling the country, dressed in khadi saris, spreading the message of swaraj.
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