Some women achievers of post-independent India
Ritam Banati

It goes without saying that Indian women have been achievers since the pre-independence era. Take the example of Rani of Jhansi, who fought bravely in the first mutiny of 1857 against colonial rule. And women also participated subsequently in the struggle against the British. For instance Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army had a women’s battalion.

Post-independence, the role of women has evolved with the evolution of the society and a change of thought process. The result being that today it is no big deal if a woman is an engineer, a politician or an Army Major which were all male-dominated professions at one point of time.

Here is an abridged list of women who either broke erstwhile largely male bastions or created a dent in their chosen fields.

Durga Khote
Indian cinema entered a new phase with the entry of this fiery young actress in 1931 when she made her debut in a silent film. The first woman from a ‘good’ family who entered films, Durga Khote broke the notion that movies were a taboo profession for Indian women. A leading Indian magazine, rated her among 100 people Who Shaped India, as it noted that "Durga Khote marks the pioneering phase for woman in Indian cinema”
Homai Vyarawalla
India’s first woman photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla took the first picture of her career at the age of 26 in 1938. She has worked for the Illustrated Weekly of India and by clicking some historical pictures herself became a historical figure.
Sarojini Naidu
The governor of erstwhile United Provinces, Sarojini Naidu became the first Indian woman to be made the Governor of a state when Indian attained independence from British rule on August 15, 1947. Sadly she breathed her last barely two years after that. She was also the first Indian woman to become the president of the Indian National Congress in pre-independent India.
Vijay Lakshmi Pandit
She was not only the first Indian but also the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1953. Besides, Pandit had served as envoy to the USSR before her appointment to this coveted post. Vijay Lakshmi was the younger sister of ex-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
I B Joshi
The first woman IAS officer of independent India, Isha Basant Joshi was posted as Magistrate and then as Assistant Commissioner in Delhi, followed by her appointment as Commissioner-cum-State Editor of District Gazette. She retired in 1966. The sad part of her life is that at the ripe age of 96, the lady is spending her last days in the dingy servant quarter of her already sold out ancestral house.
Sucheta Kriplani
First woman Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in independent India in 1963, Sucheta was a freedom fighter as also one of the few women who were elected to the Constituent Assembly and was part of the subcommittee that drafted the Constitution of free India.
Reita Faria
The first Indian woman to win the Miss World title in 1966, she serves as a role model for women who aspire for glamour. Reita Faria gave up modeling after her tenure as Miss World ended. She took up medical studies after that and became a doctor.
Indira Gandhi
First woman Prime Minister of independent India in 1966, Indira was the daughter of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. She was PM for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. With the Green Revolution that made India a food exporter to the White Revolution that aimed at combating malnutrition, Indira’s tenure was also tainted by her clamping of Emergency due to which her career suffered a serious setback.
Maharani Gayatri Dev
The Rajmata of Jaipur was born as Princess Gayatri Devi of Cooch Behar. She was the third Maharani of Jaipur from 1939 to 1970 through her marriage to Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. Following India's independence, she became an extremely successful politician and was a 15-time MP. Known for her beauty, she championed the cause of women’s education and uplift. She was also the first to step out of Purdah in her state, paving the way for other women’s freedom.
Kiran Bedi
Breaking the shackles of the male-dominated Indian Police Service, Kiran Bedi became the first woman IPS officer of India in the year 1972. She has worked with the United Nations as the Police Advisor to the Secretary General. Bedi has also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award when she was the IG of Tihar jail. Prior to joining the civil services, Kiran was an Asian tennis champion.
1 2 3
Share the pride. Send the Tricolour
to your friends
Click here»
Why is 'saare jahan se acha,
hindustan hamara' Tell us
Chacha Nehru at Red Fort
The Prime Minister’s first address
to the nation