Janaki Ammal K P
One of the first women in South India to be arrested by the British, Janaki Ammal, born in 1917, was already an accomplished performer at age 12. Her early life was spent in penury.
One of the first women in South India to be arrested by the British, Janaki Ammal, born in 1917, was already an accomplished performer at age 12. Her early life was spent in penury. She lost her mother when she was eight and was brought up by her grandmother. An eighth-grade school drop out, she joined Palaniappa Pillai Boys Company as a singer for a salary of Rs.25 per month. Later, she went on to become the lead actress and earned over Rs. 300 per performance. She married Gurusamy Naidu, a harmonium player in the troupe. As she got more and more involved in politics, she spent her theatre earnings on the people. She joined the Congress in 1936, moved to the Congress Socialist Party, and eventually to the Communist Party in 1940. In 1967, Janaki was elected to the State Legislative Assembly from the Madurai East constituency. She led many agitations for regularization of wages for mill workers, farmers and the labour class. Along with Paapa Umanath, she founded the Tamil Nadu Democratic Women’s Association in 1974 and became its first president. During the Emergency, Janaki sold all her jewels and silk saris to feed party cadres. Janaki declined the freedom fighters’ pension and ‘ thamarai pattayam’ . Repeated jail terms and hard work deteriorated her health and she died of asthma on March 1, 1992.