The Incredible Story of India's First Woman Legislator - Mrs. Muthulakshmi Reddy
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Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy was an eminent medical practitioner, a social reformer, a legislator, and the founder of ‘Adyar Cancer Institute’. Dr. Muthulakshmi was born on 30th July 1886 in Pudhukottai, a princely town in Tamil Nadu.
She rebelled against her mother’s desire to marry her off after puberty and convinced her that education was vital for girls. After passing her matriculation examinations she applied to the Maharaja’s college, she was admitted there as its first female student by the Maharaja of Pudhukottai himself, against severe resistance which included the college’s principal.
First of First
She was the first female student to be admitted into a men’s college, the first woman House Surgeon in the Government Maternity and Ophthalmic Hospital, the first woman legislator in British India, the first Chairperson of the State Social Welfare Advisory Board, the first woman Deputy President of the Legislative Council, and the first Alderwoman of the Madras Corporation Avvai Home.
Muthulakshmi then enrolled in Madras Medical College for MBBS where she received gold medals for her academic excellence. She did her higher studies in England, but she gave up her practice of medicine to take up a request from the ‘Women’s Indian Association’, and entered the Madras Legislative Council.After being appointed by the Madras Legislative Council as the deputy president in 1927, Muthulakshmi started working towards the upliftment of women, her goal was to erase gender inequality. She also stood for the cause of liberating India from the British rule. She married a doctor called Sundara Reddy in 1914 under conditions that, he should always treat her as an equal, and he should never stop her from pursuing her dreams.
- Established the minimum age for marriage to 21 for boys and 16 for girls.
- Passed a bill to prevent immoral trafficking of women and children in brothels.
- Abolished the Devadasi system in Tamil Nadu.
- Opened hostels for Muslim girls.
- Gave out scholarships for Harijan girls.
- Was involved in setting up toilets for men and women.
- Muthulakshmi started a home called Avvai, for destitute women.
- Rallied against the social abuses faced by women.
- Was an active participant in the freedom struggle she gave up her position as a legislator in the British government, during the quit India movement.
- Started the Cancer Relief Fund, which is now an all India institute for cancer research and treatment.
Adayar Cancer Institute
Adyar cancer institute is a premier hospital in Chennai, it was created out of her desire to start a hospital for cancer patients. With the support of like-minded people, the foundation stone was laid in 1952. The hospital started functioning on 18 June 1954. Today it is one of the most sophisticated oncology hospitals in the world, which treats 80,000 people per year.
In 1956, she was conferred a Padma Bhushan in recognition of her services by the Government of India. Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi was an impressive woman who worked her way through a biased system which treated women as second class citizens.
The Logical Indian salutes Mrs. Muthulakshmi Reddy, her vision and values have inspired and changed many lives for good. Let us do our best to take her vision and values forward.
Author – Mr. Sudharshan Vasudevan