some women achievers of post-independent India


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.

Bachendri Pal
This bold Indian from the North-East braved the onslaught of an injury to become famous as the first Indian woman who successfully surmounted the highest mountain peak Mt Everest in 1984. She was also the fifth woman of the world to have achieved this remarkable feat.
Kalpana Chawla
First India-born woman to enter space in 1997, Kalpana Chawla’s life ended tragically when while returning from her second mission for 16-days, her space shuttle Columbia disintegrated and killed the 41 year old astronaut
Mary Kom
our-time world champion M C Mary Kom is the first woman boxer to be honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, She is also the first boxer alongwith Vijender Singh to be awarded the same. The Manipuri girl also won the Arjuna award in 2004 before being conferred with the Padma Shri a couple of years later in 2006. She is also the International Boxing Association’s Ambassador for women’s boxing.
Saina Nehwal
She is the latest woman sports sensation and has proved that hard work can take you anywhere. Saina is World No 2 in badminton and has scored victories over higher ranked players in the past.
Fathima Beevi
The first woman judge of the Supreme Court, Fathima Beevi was also the first one to be appointed as a judge of the apex court in the whole of Asia. It is an achievement for an Indian woman and a feat indeed for a Muslim woman during 1989. Her accomplishment lay in the fact that she facilitated the entry of other women in the apex court.
Priya Jhingan
Erstwhile male bastion the Indian Army was broken by Priya Jhingan-Army’s first woman. In fact she even wrote to the then Chief of Army Staff, General Sunith Francis Rodrigues requesting him to open doors of the Army to the Indian woman. And in the year 1992, the bright young law graduate joined the ‘hard’ profession. Before she retired she said, “It’s a dream I have lived every day for the last 10 years”.
Padmavathy Bandopadhyay
With a list of accomplishments to her credit, Padma Bandopadhyay- an IAF officer who rose to be India’s first woman Air Vice Marshal in 2002, Bandopadhyay also served as the first woman Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India and the first Indian woman to have conducted scientific research at the North Pole as also the first woman officer to have completed the Defence Service Staff College course – in 1978 – and to command the IAF’s Central Medical Establishment (CME).
Pratibha Patil
In 2007, Pratibha Patil became the country’s first woman President. Prior to this she was also the first woman governor of Rajasthan from 2004-2007. What is noteworthy is that she has never lost an election that she has contested.
Meira Kumar
In 2009, Meira Kumar became the country’s first woman and also the first Dalit Speaker of the Lok Sabha and was elected unopposed. An IFS officer by profession, Meira was a Cabinet Minister in the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment in 2004-2009. Meira is a five-time Lok Sabha MP.
Sushmita Sen
In 1994, for the first time, an Indian beauty won the Miss Universe crown. The answer to the question of the final round made her immensely popular among people. When asked “What was the essence of being a woman?”, the charming 18-year-old replied, “The origin of a child was a woman…. a woman teaches a man what …..caring….is all about…”. This won her the much sought after crown.
Sonia Gandhi
The widow of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inherited the political legacy. However she has risen to be India’s most powerful woman on account of her own caliber. She is the one who virtually runs the country. Sonia, an Italian-born, internalized Indian culture and tradition when she got married to Rajiv Gandhi. She has faced much criticism on account of her being a foreigner but has also received appreciation for her political astuteness.
Naina Lal Kidwai
The first Indian woman to graduate from the Harvard Business School, Naina Lal Kidwai was appointed as the country head of HSBC (India) this year. Kidwai was bestowed with the Padma Shri in 2007and was alos in WSJ’s list of world’s top 50 businesswomen. Not only this, the woman was listed as one of the 15 global influentials of 2002 by Time magazine.

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