Madeleine Slade was born in a family of aristocrats in England in 1892. She was first introduced to Gandhian thought through Mahatma Gandhi, a book by Romain Rolland. Deeply influenced by Gandhian philosophy, she joined the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad and adopted the ashram’s austere life-style. The name Mira Behn was given to her by Gandhi himself. With time, she became a close associate of Gandhi and took part in several of his political and social programmes. She toured several parts of the country to promote the concept of khadi and the Satyagraha Movement.
She contributed over a thousand articles to Young India and Harijan and also wrote for The Statesman, The Times of India and The Hindustan Times. She played a major role in the establishment of Sevagram, an ashram near Wardha. She accompanied Gandhi to the Round Table Conference in London in 1931. In 1942, she prepared the people of Orissa to resist Japanese invasion non-violently. She was sent by Gandhi to the AICC, Allahabad with the draft resolution on the Quit India Movement. As a result of her participation in the political plan, she was placed under detention (1942-1944) in the Aga Khan Palace.
Mira Behn is also known for her pioneering work in social reform, especially at the rural level. She set up a Kisan Ashram at Muldaspur (Uttar Pradesh) for serving villagers and cattle. She was appointed the honorary special advisor to the UP Government for the Grow More Food Campaign. In 1947, she started Ashram Pashuloknear Rishikesh and a settlement named Bapu Gram. In 1959, she left India and settled in a village near Vienna where she pursued her interest in classical music.
In 1969, on the occasion of the Gandhi Centenary Celebrations, she was invited to England by Lord Louis Mountbatten to narrate her experiences with Gandhi. In 1981, she was honoured with Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.