22 July: Remembering Muthu Lakshmi Reddy on her Punya Tithi
Muthu Lakshmi Reddy (30 July 1886 – 22 July 1968) was an Indian Doctor, Scientist, Social Reformer, Activist, Writer, Author, Autobiographer, Politician, and Legislator. She was the first Indian woman legislator.
Early Life and Career
Muthu Lakshmi Reddy was born on 30 July 1886, in Madras, India. She got her early education in a co-educational school, and she passed her matriculation through private studies. She became the first girl to be admitted to a men’s college, Maharajas College, Pudukottai.
In 1907, she also became the first and only female candidate who got admission to Madras Medical College. She became the first woman doctor in the country after graduating in 1912 with several gold medals. Later, she was influenced by Annie Besant and Mahatma Gandhi.
During the 1926 Madras Legislature, she was nominated to the legislative council and became the first woman in India to serve in a legislature. She was the first woman to serve as Vice-President of a legislative council when she was elected Deputy Chairperson of the legislative council.
In 1929, she was the one who pushed for the legislation that abolished the devadasi system and raised the marriage age for women.
She resigned from the Madras Legislature after Gandhi was imprisoned in 1930.
Dr. Reddy was the first alderwoman of the Madras Corporation and the founder-president of the Women’s Indian Association (WIA).
She got involved with several orphanages and women’s welfare groups and improved slum dwellers’ health care. She founded Avvai Home on Besant Avenue in 1930 for destitute women and orphans. When she was an MLC, she introduced free education for girls.
Dr. Reddy first expressed her desire to start a hospital for cancer patients at the Golden Jubilee of the Madras Medical College in 1935. In 1952, Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone for the Adyar Cancer Institute, thanks to the support of like-minded people. It was the second hospital of its kind in India and the first one in south India. Nearly 80,000 cancer patients get treated there every year.
A book she wrote called My Experience as a Legislature recounts her social reform initiatives in the Madras legislature.
In 1956, she received the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award.
She died on 22 July 1968.