Firsts of Indian women – Every year March 8th is celebrated as International Women’s Day. Often addressed as Mother India, the country has many exemplary women, who overcame many societal barriers like gender bias, and worked hard to achieve their goals and fought for women’s rights. They have made India proud in various fields like politics, sports, arts, sciences, law, and many more.
We bring you a historical list of Indian women who were Firsts in their field:
Firsts of Indian women – First Indian female President – Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil
- The first female President of India who held the position from 2007 to 2012 as the 12th President of India.
- She also severed as the Governor of Rajasthan from 2004 to 2007.
- At the young age of 27, she was elected to Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in 1962. She held various posts there in the later years.
- Mrs.Patil got appointed 17th Governor of Rajasthan in 2004.
Firsts of Indian women – Indira Gandhi
- Indira Gandhi was the first female Prime Minister of India (1966 to 1977).
- She was the only child of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. After his death, Indira became the head of the Indian National Congress party and then the Prime Minister of India in 1966.
- Indira Gandhi was named as the “Women of the Millennium” in a poll by the BBC in 1999. She also became the first woman to receive the Bharat Ratna award.
- The First IPS Officer (1972) of India.
- Kiran Bedi is the first Indian woman to join the officer’s rank in the Indian Police Service. She joined the services in 1972 and became the first woman in uniform to lead the all-male contingent of the Delhi Police at the Republic Day Parade in 1975.
- She was the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry from 2016 to 2021.
- Ms.Bedi was Director-General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development from 2005 to 2007.
- She was also the Police Adviser and Director of United Nations Police from 2003 to 2005.
- Kiran Bedi is the recipient of the President’s Police Medal, 1979, Ramon Magsaysay Award, 1994 and United Nations Medal, 2004.
- The first female Indian Astronaut in space (2003)
- Kalpana Chawla was the first woman from India to have reached and worked in the space. She was the mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator.
- She was one of the seven crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
- Many Universities and Instituted around the world have named places/awards after her.
- Kalpana is a role model for many young women in India and around the world. She will always be remembered for her incredible courage and contribution.
Must read: Biography of Kalpana Chawla
Firsts of Indian women – Bachendri Pal
- The first Woman Mountaineer of India to Climb Mount Everest (1984).
- Bechendri Pal was listed in Guinness Book of the World Records (1990) for her achievement as the first Indian Woman mountaineer to climb the Mount Everest.
- The First Woman Pilot of India.
- Sarla was one of the Indian women who pioneered a career in aviation. She is the first woman to get an aviation pilot licence and fly an aircraft.
- She was also the first Indian to get an airmail pilot’s licence. Sarla was also a successful businesswoman and painter.
Reita Faria Powell
- The First Female Miss World (1966) from India.
- Reita Faria Powell was only 21 when she became the first Indian as well as the first Asian woman to achieve the title. After winning the pageant, Powell bid farewell to the modelling world and completed her M.B.B.S degree.
Firsts of Indian women – Durgabai Kamat
- The First Female actress of Indian Cinema.
- In the early 1990s, women acting in films or performing theatre were looked down upon. However, Dadasaheb Phalke encouraged the female actresses and introduced Durga Bai in 1913 in his second film ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ as a leading lady. She had a successful acting career.
- The First Photo Journalist (1913-2012) of India.
- She captured some of the most historic and unique moments of Indian History such as the first flag hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort. Each picture clicked by her is just not a picture; they tell many untold, unheard stories of that time.
- The First Miss Universe (1994) from India.
- An inspiration to date, Sushmita was the first Indian woman to win the legendary Miss Universe title.
- She is the role model for many modern women. She had a successful career in Bollywood.
- The first woman lawyer of India. She was also a writer and social reformer.
- After finishing her studies from Bombay University, she went to Oxford University. However, she could not graduate as women at that time were not awarded degrees.
- Cornelia got involved in work for women in purdah, who were not allowed to communicate with the males in the outside world. She also promoted reforms for several Hindu laws like child marriage and sati pratha.
Anandi Gopal Joshi
- She was India’s first female doctor alongside Kadambini Ganguly.
- The death of her ten days old son due to lack of medical facilities inspired Anandi to become a physician.
- After completing her studies, she returned to India in 1886 and was appointed as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local Albert Edward Hospital.
- The first female engineer – Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha.
- Lalitha joined a British firm Associated Electrical Industries in Calcutta in 1948 and worked on designing transmission lines, and substation layouts of Bhakra Nangal Dam, the largest dam in India.
- She was the only female engineer from India who attended the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientist in New York held in 1964.
- The first female judge (1937) and then High Court judge (1959) in India is also known as Anna Chandi.
- She served with the Law Commission of India.
- Before her death in 1996, she wrote an autobiography titled Atmakatha (1973).
- There are many firsts to her name – first woman Legislator in British India, first woman Deputy President of the Legislative Council, first female student to be admitted into a men’s college, first woman House Surgeon in the Government Maternity and Ophthalmic Hospital, and first Chairperson of State Social Welfare Advisory Board.
- She was conferred Padma Bhushan for her meritorious services to the nation.
Anna Rajam Malhotra
- The first female IAS officer in India – 1951 batch.
- Even after being discouraged to be IAS and offered to join Foreign and Central Services, she stood her ground and did not budge.
- Malhotra worked under seven Chief Ministers.
- She was also the first Malayali woman to hold a secretarial post in the Central Government.
- In 1989, Anna was awarded Padma Bhushan.
- The first Lady Cadet to join the Indian Army in 1932.
- She was the silver medalist from the first batch of 25 femals officers commissioned in the Indian Army in 1933.
- She was facilitated by the President of India for being the pioneer of women in teh Indian Army.
Do read: What is International Women’s Day
Recommended Reading: 7 ways to empower women this Women’s Day