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Margaret Elizabeth Cousins

  • Context (IE): On Women’s History Month, the life of Margaret Cousins, who fought hard for women’s voting rights in India, is being remembered.

Margaret Elizabeth Cousins - PMF IAS

  • Margaret Elizabeth Cousins (also known as Gretta Cousins) was an Irish-Indian educationist, suffragist, and Theosophist.
  • She moved to India with her husband, poet and literary critic James Cousins, in 1915.

Early Life and Education

  • Margaret Gillespie, from an Irish Protestant family, was born on 7 November 1878 at Boyle, County Roscommon.
  • She studied music at the Royal University of Ireland in Dublin, graduating in 1902, and became a teacher.

Her Role in Ireland

  • 1906: Attended National Conference of Women (NCW) meeting in Manchester, joining the Irish branch of NCW.
  • 1907: Attended London Convention of Theosophical Society, establishing connections with various activist groups in London.
  • 1908: Co-founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League with Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, serving as the league’s first treasurer.
  • 1910: Participated in the Parliament of Women, advocating for women’s rights, leading to her arrest.
  • 1913: Upon the reading of the Second Home Rule Bill, protesters broke windows at Dublin Castle, leading to arrest and imprisonment in Tullamore Jail.
    • Demonstrated for recognition as political prisoners and initiated a hunger strike for release.
  • 1915: Moved to India, presumably continuing their activism and involvement in social causes.

Contributions in India

  • Initially worked for New India, Annie Besant’s newspaper, but was dismissed for an article supporting the Easter Uprising.
  • 1916: Became the first non-Indian member of the Indian Women’s University at Poona.
  • 1917: Co-founded the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) with Annie Besant and Dorothy Jinarajadasa.
    • Edited the WIA’s journal, Stri Dharma, advocating for women’s rights and empowerment.
  • 1919: Drafted the first demand for women’s voting rights in India, presented to the Southborough Committee in London.
  • 1922: Became the first woman magistrate in India.
  • 1927: Co-founded the All India Women’s Conference, later serving as its President in 1936.
  • She became a member of the Flag Presentation Committee and presented the National Flag of India to the Constituent Assembly on 14 August 1947.


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