Women's Indian Association

In 1919 the Government of India Bill started its journey through the House of Commons. Groups were invited to give evidence before a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee. One group who wanted to put forward their ideas on the subject was the Women's Indian Association whose president was Annie Besant. The group had lobbied for equal rights since its creation two years before and was outraged that women had been entirely left out of the proposed new democratisation. Besant, now aged seventy-two, had devoted her final years to the cause of Indian Home Rule.

Sophia Duleep Singh was a member of the delegation that gave evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee. The women argued their case passionately, warning the British government that if they made no provision for women's votes, they would be introducing gender equality to India deliberately and catastrophically. The women gave evidence before Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India: "Facing Mr. Montagu, who in spite of the odds against him, is bent upon putting India upon the path of responsible self-government, sat in a long-row, Mrs Naidu, the Princess Sophia A. Duleep Singh, Mrs Annie Besant, Mrs P. L. Roy, Mrs Kotwal, Mrs N. C. Sen, Mrs B. Bhola Naath and Mrs Dube."

Montagu refused to change his bill. He would leave it to the provincial assemblies to decide if they wanted to give women the vote. Two years later, only some of them took up the opportunity. Madras was the first to grant women's suffrage in 1921, but only to those men and women who owned land property according to British administration's records. The rights granted in response to the movement towards suffrage were limited to qualifications of literacy and property ownership, including property ownership of husbands. This excluded vast majority of Indian women and men from voting, because they were poor.