While a great deal is known about the public lives of Indian women who participated in the national movement, their private lives remain unexamined. Focusing on the Indian freedom fighter Rukmini Lakshmipathi (1892–1951), this article uses her letters to her husband to examine the tensions between the private worlds and political activities of women who led public lives. These letters, written during her incarceration for protesting British rule in India, reveal the dynamics of love and marriage in the homes of nationalist women in India as well as the challenges women faced trying to fulfill their domestic responsibilities while participating in political work. This article examines Lakshmipathi’s life and argues that questions of identity based on class, caste, gender, and community, as shaped by and expressed in their domestic worlds, were integral to the evolution of the political thought of women national leaders.

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