Princess Sophia Jindan Alexdrowna Duleep Singh was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, founder of the Sikh Empire respectively. He had been deposed from his throne at the age of 11 and exiled to Britain two years later. He became a great favourite of the royal family and Sophia was brought up among the British aristocracy. Queen Victoria was her godmother.
Led Reform Movements
She could have had an easy life and could have spent her time enjoying luxury, including foreign travel. However, the princess decided to become involved in the movement for Women’s Suffrage (being allowed to vote). She attended meetings and joined in demonstrations, including the famous Black Monday demonstration when the Suffragettes clashed with the police and many were injured. She joined the Women’s Tax Resistance League, this led her into court, twice, having the bailiffs visit her house and take her belongings. She also went out on the streets, giving out leaflets, alongside her fellow suffragettes.
After the war she joined the Suffragette Fellowship led by Mrs Pankhurst. Sophia was a very active campaigner. After Mrs Pankhurst’s death in 1928, she was appointed President of the Committee. The princess remained a member of the Suffragette Fellowship to the end of her life.
Right to Vote Movement
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was one of the important figures in the movement to secure the vote for women in Great Britain. Before 1918 no women were allowed to vote in elections and even afterwards only women who were aged over 30, were householders, were married to a householder or held a university degree were granted this right. In 1928 the British parliament finally passed the Representation of the People Act, which meant that women were granted the right to vote on the same terms as men.
As an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the Women’s Tax Resistance League and The Suffragette Fellowship Sophia joined many other women, including Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, in campaigning for a change in the law. As well as marches and demonstrations, Princess Sophia helped to spread the message of their movement by selling ‘The Suffragette’ around London and was often seen at her stand outside Hampton Court Palace.
An important part of their campaign was based around a refusal to pay taxes, because they were not to be allowed a say in the way that the money was spent by the government. On two occasions she was charged with refusing to pay taxes and licence fees and was fined on each occasion.
Princess Sophia was a close friend and associate of Emmeline Pankhurst, a woman who in 1999 was listed by Time magazine as being one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
“…she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”
Via Sikh Youth Kettering