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LAKSHMIBAYAMMA UNNAVA (1882–195o)


Lakshmibayamma Unnava was a revolutionary social activist and Gandhian of Andhra Pradesh. She was born in 1882 in Ameenabad, a village in the Guntur district, and belonged to a middle class Niyogi Brahmin family. Being the youngest in the family, she had a liberal upbringing and also received traditional schooling. She was married to Unnava Lakshminarayana, a writer and philosopher, at the age of ten. His thought had a deep and lasting influence on her, and many of his ideas found expression in her public speeches. Gandhi’s ideas also greatly influenced her. Others who inspired her were Subbayamma Duvvuri (q.v.), Ponka Kanakamma and Yaminipurna. They were all her close associates in the Non Co-operation Movement.

In 1910 she began to work for causes like widow remarriage, and the following year she entered politics at the provincial level by joining the movement for a separate Andhra province. In 1921 she participated in the Non Co-operation Movement. Between 1911 and 1942 she was imprisoned six times for participating in this, the salt Satyagraha and the Quit India Movement.

As a social reformer she envisaged establishing a school for women so that destitute women, widows and orphans might find a better place in society. In 1923 she founded Sarada Niketan, a residential school for women from all strata of society. The school conferred Sahiti and Vidhushi degrees, and later obtained affiliation to the Andhra University. Apart from her social activities Lakshmibayamma was active in politics too. She toured the whole region of Andhra giving public lectures and exhorting the people to join the freedom struggle. At the time of the Quit India Movement, she made a memorable speech at the Nellore Town Hall. In 1921 she also participated in the Forest Movement. After Independence she retired from politics, as indisposition and old age made it impossible for her to work as hard as in the past.

After a prolonged fight against illness, Lakshmibayamma died in 1950. Controversies over the management of Sarada Niketan of which she was the Trustee and guardian dogged her at the end. Nevertheless she remains a memorable figure.
 
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