(1886 -1968) – (Tamilnadu)
Muthulakshmi Reddy (Aged 82) was born on July 30, 1886, in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, India. She was a pioneering Indian medical practitioner, social reformer, and Padma Bhushan award recipient. In 1926, Reddy was appointed to the Madras Legislative Council, which marked the beginning of her lifelong crusade to “correct the balance for women by removing social abuses and working for equality in moral standards.” She was an activist for women’s rights and social reform.
Reddy had several “firsts” to her name: she was the first female student to be admitted into a men’s college, the first woman House Surgeon in the Government Maternity and Ophthalmic Hospital, the first woman Legislator in British India, the first Chairperson of the State Social Welfare Advisory Board, the first woman Deputy President of the Legislative Council, and the first Alderwoman of the Madras Corporation Avvai Home.
Despite facing many constraints faced by women in India during her time, Reddy completed her higher education and was admitted into the medical profession. In 1907, she joined the Madras Medical College, where she achieved a brilliant academic record. Reddy graduated in 1912 with several gold medals and prizes to her credit, becoming one of the first female doctors in India. Soon after, she came under the influence of Annie Besant and Mahatma Gandhi.
Muthu Lakshmi was the author of numerous social reforms. Her book, “My Experience as a Legislator,” records her service. She passed a resolution to establish a special hospital for women and children, and the government accepted her suggestion and opened a children’s section in the maternity hospital. She recommended systematic medical inspection of students in all schools and colleges run by municipalities and other local bodies. Kasturba Hospital at Triplicane is a monument to her efforts.
Reddy was the president of the All-India Women’s Conference. She passed a bill for the suppression of brothels and the immoral trafficking of women and children. She also opened a home called Avvai Home for girls and women through her efforts to provide shelter to those rescued from brothels. She passed away in 1968 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.