An educator, lawmaker, eminent medical practitioner, home surgeon, and a social reformer who dedicated her life to correct gender inequality with revolutionary social reforms; Padma Bhushan Muthulakshmi Reddi, the first female legislator of India.
Muthulakshmi Reddi has many first recognitions to her name. She was the first female legislator, the first female Chairperson of State Social Welfare Advisory Board, the first female Deputy President of the Legislative Council and the first female Alderwoman of the Madras Corporation Avvai Home.
She protested against the Devadasi system and proposed the Devadasi Abolition Bill. O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiyar passed the bill abolishing the Devadasi system. She played a vital role in raising the minimum age of marriage for boys 21 years and for girls 16 years. From legally suppressing the brothels and immortal trafficking, to rescuing women and children from brothels and providing them with shelter; her commendable efforts proved life changing for thousands of women. She provided scholarships to Harijan girls, opened a hostel for Muslim women and contributed in development of medical facilities for slum areas, setting up toilets for women.
She was the president of the All-India Women’s Conference and started the Cancer Relief Fund that has now developed into an all-India institution combining therapy and research center for cancer, attracting patients from all over India. She became the first chairperson of the State Social Welfare Board. Her work on the Hartog Education Committee, which incorporated a study of educational progress in India, created awareness for women’s education throughout the country.
Her two outstanding monumental gifts for India remain the Avvai Home (for children) and the Adyar Cancer Institute that treats 80,000 cancer patients every year, till date. Even at the age of 80, she was energetic and vibrant. Her book ‘My Experience as a Legislator’ incorporates the social reforms she took during her tenure as a legislator.
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