Anna Chandy was the first woman to serve as the Judge of a High Court in India. During her illustrious career, she dedicated her time to pave the way for the rights of women to work. She was also the first woman in the Commonwealth countries to be appointed as a Judge.
She was born in 1905 in the then Kingdom of Travancore and was raised in Thiruvanthapuram in a Syrian Christian family. In 1926, she completed her post-graduation from the Government Law College in the district and became the first woman in the state to hold a degree in Law. Chandy began her practice in 1929 as a barrister and specialized in criminal law. Her work earned her widespread acclaim for fighting criminal cases.
Became The Founder And Editor Of Magazine
Apart from her practice, Anna Chandy was determined to make a better place for women in society. In 1930, she became the founder and editor of a Malayali Magazine titled Shrimati, which served as a platform to voice women's rights. In her periodicals, she would question discriminating norms handcuffed by misogyny that affected women's lives, spoke for widow remarriage and their freedom. She emphasized how women faced enormous wage discrimination when they worked on farms. She was often touted as the 'first-generation feminist' for her endeavours.
In 1930, she ventured into politics by standing for the representative body of the Travancore state. However, several of her opponents and other publications demeaned her by publishing stories of her connections with the Dewan of the state. By 1931, when she contested for the same elections again, she had become a public figure but could still not secure the seat for herself. Nevertheless, she again contested in the succeeding year and secured herself a position for two years.
First Woman Judge of India in 1937
Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, the then Dewan of Travancore, appointed her as the first woman Judge of the country in 1937. Post-independence, she set another historical precedent by becoming the first woman Judge of Independent India when she was appointed in the Kerala High Court, where she served until 1967. Then, she proceeded to work with the Law Commission of India after her retirement. She published her autobiography in 1971 titled Aatmakatha.
Anna Chandy died in 1996 but left a mark on the Indian Judiciary and raised hopes for women inclusion in professional spaces.