Right to vote: UK’s Royal Mail heritage stamp to feature Sophia Duleep Singh’s image
Women applaud iconic rank to the princess in exile who swapped her silks for commoner clothes to crusade for equalityworld Updated: Jan 16, 2018 11:21 IST
Women home and abroad have hailed the Royal Mail, UK’s most trusted letters and couriers company, decision to feature an image of the revolutionary princess Sophia Alexandra Singh (1876-1948), on a heritage stamp to be released on February 15 to mark 100 years since women were allowed to vote in the UK. Interestingly, the company had refused to print Brexit commemorative stamp.
Heritage stamps, which were started in 1967, are a much-awaited popular event, sport and pass time British style, reflective of the mood of the people.
Sophia Duleep Singh devoted her life to activism, championing women’s rights and tending to the Indian soldiers in World War-1.
This decision has been warmly welcome in India and the UK across colour and creed differences. Parminder Kaur, Wolverhampton-based creative director of ‘The Black Country’ visiting the city for a photography project says: “This is heart-warming news from the cold climes of the country that I was born to as a second-generation immigrant of Punjabi origin. It is also a progressive decision to give an activist from South Asian origin the rank.” Sophia Pde tweets: “This is an honour..Thank you The #UK..a Sardarni at that..Well, what can i say we tend to be spunky women… Well my Punjabi name is Sophia Surinder Kaur… I am a namesake.” Another white Brit writes: “To my discredit, I had not heard of Sophia Duleep Singh until I read this tweet. It seems a real shame that the work and achievement of Singh is not taught in schools alongside work of the Pankhursts and other prominent female activists of the suffragette era.”
That her father, son of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, was made to abdicate his throne to the British Empire has made this gesture more meaningful. Indians in the UK and particularly Sikhs are in celebration mode. Sophia was the daughter of the exiled crown prince Duleep Singh and Bamba Muller, daughter of German merchant-banker Ludwig Müller and his partner Sofia. Of course, she had Queen Victoria for godmother.
Sophia devoted her life to activism, championing women’s rights and tending to the Indian soldiers in World War-1. Journalist Anita Anand, who brought her life into focus in the 2015 biography ‘Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary’, says: “She transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice.” According to Anand, when asked to reveal her passion late in life, she said, “The advancement of women”.
Chandigarh-based educationist Sukoon Singh says: “Sophia’s life narrative begins in the shadows, like that of her father, tinged somewhat with melancholia. She could have very much ended up like him but for the activism she embraced, particularly, to lobby for women’s movement in England, of which she became a very significant player”.