Durgabai was born on 15th July 1909, in Rajahmundri, Kakinada. She got involved in politics at a very young age. At the age of 12, she quit school to protest the imposition of English as the medium of education. At the age of 14, she volunteered at a conference held by the Indian National Congress in Kakinada.
Role in India’s independence movement:
In May 1930, she participated in the Salt Satyagraha in Madras. She was imprisoned in 1930 and again in 1932 and when in prison she learned English and later completed her M.A. from the Andhra University. She went on to acquire a law degree from Madras University and practiced at the Madras Bar for a few years. In 1936, she established Andhra Mahila Sabha to coach young Telugu girls in Madras for the Matriculation examination of the Banaras Hindu University. Durgabai founded and edited aTelugu journal called Andhra Mahila.
Contribution to Constitution Making:
She was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the Madras Province. She proposed that Hindustani (Hindi + Urdu) be the national language of India and also expressed fear about the strong campaign for the adoption of Hindi in South India.She proposed a period of fifteen years of status quo to enable all the non-Hindi speakers to learn Hindi. Besides her involvement in the debates over the national language of India, she proposed and supported the adoption of a number of social welfare laws. She provided important inputs on the process of the appointment judges in provincial High Courts, maintaining the independence of theJudiciary, and the establishment of new High Courts in new states. She also suggested important amendments to the draft constitution in relation to the qualification of Judges. She spoke on matters such as human trafficking and the responsibility of the state towards children.
After independence, she was a part of national organizations like Central Social Welfare Board, and the National Council for Women’s Education.She was also a member of Planning Commission. In 1958, she headed the National Committee on Girls’ and Women’s Education.
Awards and Honours:
Durgabai was awarded the Nehru Literary Award in 1971 for her contribution to the promotion of literacy in India. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1975. The Central Social Welfare Board instituted a yearly award in her name to recognize and support to the voluntary organisations for outstanding contribution to women's welfare and empowerment.
She died on 9th May 1981.