Why is it important to know about these women? Well, they were the beacons of hope at a time when the public sector was dominated by men. These women paved the way for tremendous change in Kerala and India. It also inspired other women to follow suit. Here are powerful Malayali women who were the firsts in their field.
Lakshmi Nanda Menon
She was the first woman to become part of the Union Government. A teacher, lawyer, politician and activist, Lakshmi played an active role in setting up the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Kerala and establishing the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC). She’s also the first woman in Kerala to receive the Padma Bhushan.
K. R. Gowri
Not only is K. R. Gowri Kerala’s first female minister, but she is also the first female law student from the Ezhava community.
Kerala’s iconic playback singer made her debut in 1984. Ever since, she has stolen our hearts with her beautiful voice. Did you know that K.S Chitra is the first female singer from Kerala to be honored by the House Of Commons?
Lakshmikutty is a tribal woman from Kallar forest area who is a poison healer with 50 years of experience. She uses traditional medicine to heal people. Apart from that, she writes poems, dramas and is a teacher in the folklore academy. She’s the first tribal woman from Kerala to receive a Padma Shri.
Yashoda worked as a reporter and journalist for Deshabhimani. She is considered Kerala’s first woman journalist. Journalism aside, she was also responsible for establishing a teachers’ organisation during the pre-independence period.
We all know of Vijaya Nirmala as the ghost in the classic Malayalam horror film, Bhargavi Nilayam. But, did you know that she was the first woman director in Mollywood? Vijaya directed her first film in Malayalam titled Kavitha.
Shiny Abraham has had a great run in athletics. In 1985, she secured gold in 800m at the Asian Championships. What’s even interesting is that she bagged 2nd place in the 800m event at the 1989 Asian Track & Field Meet while she was expecting. She was the first Indian woman captain and flag bearer for Indian Contingent for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
R. Sreelekha is not only Kerala’s first woman IPS officer, but she is also the first woman officer in Kerala to hold the rank of DGP. Among her peers, she was called ‘Raid Sreelekha’ because she actively took part in many anti-graft drives.
Meet India’s first merchant navy captain, Radhika Menon. She received the International Maritime organization award for exceptional bravery at sea. In 2015, many fishermen were stranded in the Bay of Bengal in the middle of a storm. She played a vital role in rescuing them.
Justice K.K Usha
Justice K.K Usha is the first woman chief justice of Kerala HC. Lauded for her career as a judge and as chief justice, she broke the glass ceiling with sheer determination and hard work.
Other Honorary Mentions:
P. K. Rosi: Kerala’s first female actor
Saint Alphonsa: First woman from Kerala to appear on a postal stamp
Jeni Jerome: First women commercial pilot of Kerala
Mary Poonen Lukose: First female surgeon general
Justice Meera Sahib Fatima Beevi: First woman appointed as the Supreme Court judge
We know there are more names to be added to this list. If we have missed out on other Malayali women who were firsts in their field, let us know in the comments below.
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