Mata Rameshwari Nehru`s entire life was a legend of dedicated selfless service to the weakest sections of society. Prostitutes, who have been the most oppressed and exploited group of women, became a special concern of Rameshwar. Her mission in life was to enlighten the poor and downtrodden. She worked to promote education and well-being of children and fought against their exploitation.
Rameshwariji was born on 10 December 1886 at Lahore. Though of Kashmiri Pandit ancestry, she had been born and brought up in Punjab
. Her father, Diwan Bahadur Raja Narendra Nath, was a prominent political leader of the Punjab. She was provided early schooling by tutors at home, as girls were not sent to school those days. Though she did not have any formal schooling, with great perseverance and diligence she set herself on the course of self-education, and acquired a high level of scholarship. Gandhiji, in a letter, described her as "a learned lady".
Rameshwari was married to Brijlal Nehru at the age of sixteen. He was the son of Motilal Nehru`s elder brother Nandlal. Motilal sent Brijlal for higher studies to England, where Jawaharlal
had preceded him for his studies. Rameshwari went along with her husband. During their stay in England she influenced Nehru to return to India and work for India`s freedom after the completion of his studies in England.
Rameshwari launched a Hindi journal, Stree Darpan. The journal became an effective instrument for creating consciousness in women. She founded the Mahila Samiti, which trained women workers and inspired women not only to fight for their own rights and for equality of status of women with men but also for the political freedom of the country shoulder to shoulder with men. She therefore organized the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, the Indian counterpart of the Abolitionists Federation at the international level. Rameshwariji had served as President of the organization from the start.
She founded the Delhi
Women`s League of which she became the Founder President. She enlightened woman against child marriage and other social evils that were engulfing the society. Recognizing her role in the crusade against child marriage, the Government of India appointed her as the member of the Age of Consent Committee. It was remarkable that she was the sole Indian woman member of the Committee. She presented a long note on the plight of child-wives, which was later included in the report of the Committee. This report formed the foundation for the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which was later, enacted. She started a Nari Niketan to help women in moral danger and rehabilitate those rescued from houses of ill fame.
She traveled widely in England and in Europe as a prominent representative of the women of India. She presided the Women`s Committee of the India League and the Women`s Indian Association. She went to Geneva at the invitation of the League of Nation. Later, she was elected as the President of the All India Women`s Conference. She also took up the cause of the upliftment of Harijans and formee the Harijan Sevak Sangh. She worked with dedication for the eradication of untouchability and for securing the rights of temple-entry for Harijans. She travelled extensively throughout Tamil Nadu and Travancore on behalf of the Harijan Sevak Sangh. The part played by her became a success and the campaign ended with Temple-entry Proclamation by the Maharaja of Travancore. Later she openly took up political work and became the organizer of the Quit India movement in the Punjab, issuing pamphlets from an underground press and leading processions. She was imprisoned for nine months in the Lahore Women`s jail.
Ministerial posts were offered to her several times. But she refused every time, devoting herself for the cause of the suffering humanity of India without desiring a reward of any kind. Towards the last years of her life she undertook a tour to various countries to propagate the cause of world peace and nuclear disarmament. The Soviet Government awarded her the Lenin Peace Prize. She was also awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. Mata Rameshwari Nehru passed away on 7th November 1966. She will eternally live in the heart of all Indians.