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List of profiled attendees at the Round Table Conference. For a full list of delegates to each session, see the British Library's Round Table Conference records page.

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Sarojini Naidu

Full nameMadame Sarojini Naidu (née Chattopadhyay), Hon. DLit (Allahabad, 1938) (aka Bharatiya Kokila [The Nightingale of India])
Born13 Feb 1879, Hyderabad, India
Died02 Mar 1949, Lucknow, India

The eldest daughter of a highly cultured family, Sarojini Chattopadhyay gained fame when she came first in the Madras University matriculation exam, aged twelve. In 1895 she came to England to attend lectures at King’s College, London, then Girton College, Cambridge. She returned to India in 1898, marrying out of caste and settling in Hyderabad, where her relief work after the 1908 flood earned her the Gold Kaiser-i-Hind medal. Meanwhile, she became a leader of the women’s movement, the Indian National Congress (of which she was the first Indian woman President, in 1925), and Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement. Naidu served as a Member of the Bombay Municipality (1923–29) and embarked on international lecture tours to South and East Africa (1924) and North America (1928-29).

Naidu attended the second session as a representative of Indian women but was also one of Gandhi’s key advisors at the conference.

For additional biographical information, see the official delegate Who's Who for the Second Session. See also Emery Kelen's caricature, from his portfolio of delegates at the Round Table Conference.


  • Mid-1929: Naidu organised a meeting between Gandhi and Jinnah. (Moore, 1974:101)
  • 31st October 1929: Naidu koined Jayakar, Jinnah and others in Bombay in welcoming Irwin’s declaration. (Moore, 1974:95)
  • 13-15th August 1930: Naidu attended a meeting in Yervada jail with Gandhi, Nehru, Jayakar and Sapru, attempting to agree terms within which Congress could attend the RTC. The nature of the demands alienated both liberals and Hindu leaders. (Moore, 1974:179)

Second Session

  • 12th August 1931: in government meetings with Gandhi’s supporters it was felt that Villabhai Patel was not keen on Gandhi travelling to London but Naidu was anxious that he should attend. (National Archives NA.32.14)
  • 29th August 1931: Naidu travelled to Europe with Gandhi aboard the SS Rajputana. Unlike the other delegates, Gandhi and his four members of staff took two three-berthed cabins on the second-class deck, as did Pandit Malaviya, although Sarojini Naidu opted to take up her first class saloon on the upper deck (Legg, 2020)
  • 17th September 1931: Naidu lunched with Lady Astor at St James’s Square, also with the Aga Khan, Hydari, Subbarayan, Lothian, Sankey and Moonje. (NMML Moonje Diary)
  • 23rd September 1931: Naidu wrote home to her children that 
    • “I have had a very full and strenuous week of work, worry and all sorts of social and other engagements. I am now beginning to see my own friends again here. I am really bored to tears by the caprices and vagaries, vacillation and vanities of the Little Man [Gandhi]. He does not know his own mind for three minutes consecutively!! With great difficulty I have found and officially established him in a beautiful house overlooking Hyde Park where he can see people, but some kink in the brain makes him cling to the East End to the utter weariness and rebellion of all his staff including the devoted Miraben!!” (Paranjape 1996: 248)
    • “The heartbreaking work of the Minorities will succeed next week the boring work of the Federal Structure Committee... I dread to think of the mutual recriminations and selfbetrayals... But apart from all these I have endless personal engagements, public and private, in the shape of meals, speeches and general 'whoopee'.” (Paranjape, 1996:249)
  • 28th September 1931: Moonje noted in his diary that at the first session he was seated near to the Prime Minister, in the meetings of the Minorities Sub-Committee, this time he had sat Naidu next to himself, then Gandhi and Malaviya: “This indicates that MacDonald thinks that Gandhi and Malaviya alone count and he can now safely ignore me and bring them round to some sort of agreement favourable to Moslems.” (NMML Moonje Diary) (See mapping of seating plans)
  • Naidu played a key role in organising meetings outside of the formal space of the conference. When the minorities committee adjourned to consider the communal question it was Naidu who organised meetings between Gandhi and Jinnah, Moonje, Ujjal Singh, Aiyar and Malaviya. (NMML.Ujjal Singh)
  • 8th October 1931: Naidu wrote home to her children: 
    • “I must be either inhuman or superhuman to have survived the past dreadful week of unceasing and anxious effort, hour in hour out, to reach some agreement on the communal problem to avoid exposing our shame to the world. But shame and sorrow, conflict and disunion continue to be our bitter portion. Tonight, there cannot be a sadder or heavier heart in the world than the broken heart of the Little Man of Sorrows [Gandhi] who has once again faced defeat because his own countrymen are only fit to be slaves. Where is the use of apportioning blame when all are so blameworthy.” (Paranjape, 1996:250)
  • 24th October 1931: Moonje Diary: attended annual dinner of students, also with Moonje and Jinnah: “One Mr Mazumdar proposed the toast of India and said the youth of India want a Republique [sic] but the elders at the Round Table Conference are not up to the mark. Mrs Naidu and Mr Jinha felt offended and hit back” (NMML: Moonje Diary)
  • 25th November 1931: Naidu wrote home to her children: 
    • “even the Conference blew up into several storms—brainstorms, nerve storms, emotional storms and what not on every side. Even Sapru and Jayakar flew into rages and foamed at the mouth and Sastri got a heart attack between the opening and the closing part of his magnificent speech” (Paranjape, 1996:257)
  • 1st December 1931: Naidu wrote home to her children: 
    • “O my beloved people, what a relief! The Round Table Conference is over at last... and every one of us is literally like a limp and faded rag! You will have seen jagged and ragged edges of reports about the Plenary Session... what muddy streams of talk and talk and talk: only two or three speeches were outstanding—” (Paranjape, 1996:263)


  • Member of Govt of India Deputation to South Africa in 1932
  • August 1942: Imprisoned with other Congress leaders after the ‘Quit India’ resolution; released March 1943
  • 15 August 1947: Acting Governor of United Provinces, confirmed as permanent Governor of United Provinces December 1947

Sources used

  • National Archives, New Delhi: Home(Poll) /932/14/30-KW
  • Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi: Dr BS Moonje papers; Ujjal Singh, Oral History transcript 42.
  • R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917-1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1974)
  • Makarand Paranjape (Ed.), Sarojini Naidu Selected Letters 1890s to 1940s (New Delhi: Kali for Women; 1996)
  • Stephen Legg, "Political Lives at Sea: Working and Socialising to and from the India Round Table Conference in London, 1930–1932." Journal of Historical Geography, 68 (2020), pp. 21-32:

Selected publications


Secondary literature

Online resources

ImagesPhotograph of Sarojini Naidu, from the published biographical guide to delegates at the second session of the Round Table Conference, 1931

"Mrs. Sarojini Naidu." From Indian Round Table Conference Second Session 1931: Biographical Notes and Photographs of the British and Indian Delegates (London: St. James's Palace). By permission of the British Library (shelfmark T 11187). Reproduced under Open Government Licence v3.0 (

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