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British supporter of the Indian Independence Movement makes Sabarmati Ashram her home

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

August 09, 2021


Madeleine Slade, also known as Mirabehn (or Meera Behn), was a British supporter of the Indian Independence Movement who in the 1920s left her home in England to live and work with Mohandas Gandhi.

Her aristocratic existence took a life-changing turn after she read French novelist and essayist Romain Rolland’s 1924 biography of Gandhi, in which he described Gandhi as the greatest personality of the 20th century. Slade became fascinated by the principles of nonviolence and contacted Gandhi himself, asking if she could become his disciple and live in Sabarmati Ashram. Undeterred, Slade reached India in November 1925 and made India her home for the next 34 years.

She became one of Gandhi’s confidants and an ardent champion internationally for India’s freedom from British rule and was with Gandhi at the London Round Table Conference in 1931. She was arrested multiple times, including during a period of civil disobedience in 1932–33, when she was detained on the charge of supplying information to Europe and America regarding conditions prevailing in India; and in 1942, when she was imprisoned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune along with Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba (the latter died there in 1944).

A year before her death, the Indian government conferred on her the Padma Vibhushan medal, the country’s second highest civilian honour.