Educational Resources

Appeal To The Women Of India

August 11, 1921

Dear Sisters,

The All-India Congress Committee has come to a momentous decision in fixing the 30th September next as the final date for completing the boycott of foreign cloth begun by the sacrificial fire lit on the 31st July in Bombay in memory of Lokamanya Tilak. I was accorded the privilege of setting fire to the huge pile containing costly saris and other dresses which you have hitherto considered fine and beautiful. I feel that it was right and wise on the part of the sisters who gave their costly clothing. Its destruction was the most economical use you could have made of it, even as destruction of plague- infected articles is their most economical and best use. It was a necessary surgical operation designed to avert more serious complaints in the body politic.

The women of India have during the past twelve months worked wonders on behalf of the Motherland. You have silently worked away as angels of mercy. You have parted . with your cash and your fine jewellery. You have wandered from house to house to make collections. Some of you have even assisted in picketing. Some of you who were used to fine dresses of variegated colours and had a number of changes during the day, have now adopted the white and spotless but heavy khadi sari reminding one of a woman's innate purity. You have done all this for the sake of India, for the sake of the Khilafat, for the sake of the Punjab. There is no guile about your word or work. Yours is the purest sacrifice untainted by anger or hate. Let me confess to you that your spontaneous and loving response all over India has convinced me that God is with us. No other proof of our struggle being one of self-purification is needed than that lakhs of India's women are actively helping it.

Having given much, more is now required of you. Men bore the principal share of the subscriptions to the Tilak Swaraj Fund. But completion of the Swadeshi programme is possible only if you give the largest share. Boycott is impossible unless you will surrender the whole of your foreign clothing. So long as the taste persists so long is complete renunciation impossible. And boycott means complete renunciation. We must be prepared to be satisfied with such cloth as India can produce, even as we are thankfully content with such children as God gives us. I have not known a.mother throwing away her baby, even though it may appear ugly to an outsider. So should it be with the patriotic women of India about Indian manufact4res. And for you only hand- spun and hand-woven can be regarded as Indian manufactures. During the transition stage you can only get coarse khadi in abundance. You may add all the art to it that your taste allows or requires. And if you will be satisfied with coarse khadi for a few months, India need not despair of seeing a revival of the fine, rich and coloured garments of old, which were once the envy and the despair of the world. I assure you that a six months' course .of self-denial will show you that what we today regard as artistic Js only falsely so, and that true art takes note not merely of form but also of what lies behind. There is an art that kills and an art that gives life. The fine fabric that we have imported from the West or the Far East has literally killed millions of our brothers and sisters and delivered thousands of our dear sisters to a life of shame. True art must be evidence of happiness, contentment and purity. of its authors. And if you will have such art revived in our midst, the use of khadi is obligatory on the best of you at the present moment.

And not only is the use of khadi necessary for the success of the Swadeshi programme but it is imperative for everyone of you to spin during your leisure hours. I have suggested to boys and men also that they should spin. Thousands of them, I know, are spinning daily. But the. main burden of spinning must, as of old, fall on your shoulders. Two hundred years ago the women of India spun not only for home demand but also for foreign lands. They spun not merely coarsecounts but the finest that the world has ever spun. No machine' has yet reached the fineness of the yarn spun by our ancestors. If, then, we are to cope with the demand for khadi during the two months and afterwards, you must form spinning clubs, institute spinning competitions and flood the Indian market with hand-spun yarn. For this purpose some of you have to become experts in spinning, carding, and adjusting the spinning-wheels. This means ceaseless toil. You will not look upon spinning as a means of livelihood. For the middle class it should supplement the income of the family, and for very poor women, it is undoubtedly a means of livelihood. The spinning-wheel should be, as it was, the widow's loving companion. But for you who will read this appeal, it is presented as a duty, as dharma. If all the well-to-do women. of India were to spin a certain quantity daily, they would make yarn cheap and bring about much more quickly than otherwise the required fineness.

The economic and the moral salvation of India thus rests mainly with you. The future of India lies on your knees, for you will nurture the future generation. You can bring up the children of India to become simple, godfearing, and brave men and women, or you can coddle them to be weak- lings unfit to brave the storms of life and used to foreign fineries which they would find it difficult in' after life to discard. The next few weeks will show of what stuff the women of India are made. I have not the shadow of a doubt'
as to your choice. The destiny of India is far safer in your bands than in the hands of a Government that ,has so exploited India's resources that she has lost faith in herself. At every one of women's meetings, I have asked for your blessings for the national effort and I have done so in the belief that you are pure, simple, and godly enough to give them with effect. You can ensure the fruitfulness of your blessings by giving up your foreign cloth and during your spare hours ceaselessly spinning for the nation.

I remain,

Your devoted brother,


-Young India, 11-8-1921