Saturday, February 16, 2008


Muthulakshmi Reddy
(30th July 1886 in the princely state of Pudukottai of Tamilnadu - 22nd July 1968 Madras) was an eminent medical practitioner and social reformer of her time. In spite of various constraints faced by girls in India of her time, she could complete her higher education, and was admitted into medical profession. In 1907, she joined the Madras Medical College, where she achieved a brilliant academic record. With several gold medals and prizes to her credit, Muthulakshmi passed out in 1912 to become the first woman doctor in the country. Soon thereafter, she came under the influence of Annie Besant, and then of Mahatma Gandhi.
She was nominated to the Madras Legislature as a member of legislative council in 1926, and became the first woman to be a member of any legislature in India. When she was elected as the Deputy Chairperson of the legislative council, she became the first woman in the world to become the Vice-President of a Legislature. She was the prime mover behind the legislation that abolished the devadasi system in 1929 and played a keen role in raising the minimum marriage age for women in India. In 1930, she resigned from the Madras Legislature as a protest following the imprisonment of Mahatma Gandhi.
She was the founder-president of the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) and became the first alderwoman of the Madras Corporation. Dr Reddy was actively involved with several orphanage homes and women’s welfare organisations, and initiated measures to improve the medical facilities given to slum dwellers. In 1930, she founded Avvai Home, a home for destitute women and orphans at Besant Avenue, Adyar. As an MLC, she introduced a scheme of free education for girls up to class eight.
During her address at the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Madras Medical College in 1935, Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy first expressed her desire to start a hospital for cancer patients. With the overwhelming support of like-minded people, the foundation stone for Adyar Cancer Institute was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952. The hospital which started functioning on June 18, 1954, was only the second of its kind in India and the first in south India. It is today a world-renowned institution offering treatment to nearly 80,000 cancer patients every year.
Her book named My Experience as a Legislature recounts her initiates in respect of social reforms taken by her in the Madras Legislature.
Government of India conferred on her Padma Bhushan in 1956 in recognition of her meritorious services to the nation.