11 Of The Greatest Women In Indian History

Our historical records and archives are replete with names of great men who have left behind a legacy of immense contribution to humanity, for which they deserve the utmost respect. But sadly, there is hardly any mention of women who were equally revolutionary and inspired to achieve great heights and worthy of all the accolades we bestow on the men who have left their marks on history.

Here is the list of 11 Indian women who sculpted the future generation. They were the ones to create history, even when everyone around them said there was no future for women in India.

1. Savitribai Phule

Savitribai Phule was the first female teacher in India. Despite belonging to a lower caste family and a child bride, she played an essential role in improving women’s education during the British Period. Her husband, Jyotiba Phule– taught her by giving her primary and secondary education. He also advised her to take teaching courses. With the help of her education, she and her husband opened the first Indian girls’ school in Pune. She also opened a care center named Balhatya Partibandhak Griha for pregnant rape victims and helped their children. Along with B.R Ambedkar, Annabahu Sathe– Savitribai Phule became an icon for the backward classes. In 2015, the University of Pune renamed Savitribai Phule Pune University in her honor.

2. Anandi Gopal Joshi

Many people don’t know who Anandi Gopal Joshi was and what she did. Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first female Indian and the first South Asian doctor of western medicine. She completed her study at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Anandi always used to proclaim that India needs more female doctors. She died at age 21, but she opened the door for many other young Indian women who wanted to do more than household chores.

3. Prema Mathur

Prema Mathur was India’s first female commercial pilot. She completed her college degree and flying training under the Allahabad Flying club in 1947. Mathur was excited to fly the plane commercially though her path was full of thorns. Prem was rejected by eight private airlines just because she was a woman who wanted to enter the male-dominant field. However, she landed the job at Deccan airways, making her the co-pilot on an unpaid basis. Deccan Airways refused to promote her to Captain, saying passengers won’t be comfortable with the female pilot. She quit Deccan airways after a year and joined Indian Airways, where she became a full-time captain. She flew high-profile people like Indira Gandhi, Lal Bhadur Shastri, and Lady Mountbatten throughout her career. In the 1940s, when most women were not allowed outside the house, Prem Mathur showed the empowerment that women needed in India

4. Justice Anna Chandy

Not many know Anna Chandy became the first female high court judge in the period of pre-independence,1937. After independence, in 1948, she became a district court judge. After 11 years of serving, she was promoted to High court judge in Kerala in 1959. In the patriarchal society, she showed what an educated and empowered woman could do. She also founded the magazine Shrimati for women’s equal rights. Her achievement inspired women to do something other than fulfilling their family roles.

5. Sucheta Kriplani

Born in 1908, Sucheta was a freedom fighter who worked with Mahatma Gandhi in Quit India Movement. In a patriarchal society, Kriplani was one of the few women on the drafting committee of Constitutional design. She founded the All India Mahila Congress in 1940. Sucheta was also the first woman Chief Minister, who served as the head of the UP government from 1963 to 1967.

6. Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was the first and the only women Prime Minister of India. She was a fierce, strong-minded, and disciplined ruler when it came to India. Indira initiated ideas like Green Revolution and amendments to Five-year plans to revoke the weaker economy. At the time of her selection as a prime minister candidate, many political leaders quoted her as ‘weak’ because she was a woman. They wanted her to act like a puppet, but Indira proved them wrong and became the most successful Prime Minister.

7. Janaki Ammal

Janaki Ammal was the first woman with P.hd in Botany in 1931. The time when women worked was a seldom thing Janaki created, a new kind of sugarcane that could grow well in the country. Her creation made India one of the highest producers of sugarcane. Her determination and remarkable contribution to Indian science show what women's empowerment would look like in the future.

8. Durgabai Deshmukh

Durgabai Deshmukh is also known as Lady Deshmukh. She was a child bride but left her husband and dedicated her life to the betterment and independence of the country. Deshmukh fought hard for women’s rights and drafted a national policy on social welfare. She was a prime example of how girl child education could benefit the country if they won’t forced into early marriage.

9. Kalpana Chawala

Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-origin woman and the first woman in Space. Her sheer dedication and hard work led her to be an Astronaut. She was assigned a technical position in the astronaut office to work on the space station. Her second space flight became her last flight, as she and her six crew members died in the infamous Columbia disaster in 2003.

10. Lakshmi Sahgal

Lakshmi Sahgal was part of the Azad Hind Fauz, created by Subhash Chandra Bose. She was also a professional Gynecologist before joining the army. Lakshmi continued her practice and used to treat people as refugees during the partition of India. She was a revolutionist, independence activist, and Marxist too.

11. Pandita Ramabai Sarswati

Pandita Ramabai Sarswati was an Indian social reformer. She was the first woman to be awarded the title “Pandita” as a Sanskrit scholar and later “Saraswati” after being examined by the University of Calcutta. Ramabai founded Arya Mahila Samaj to change the face of women’s education in society and salvation from the oppression of child marriage. Once, she declared, “In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred educated men of this country are opposed to female education and the proper position of women. If they observe the slightest fault, they magnify the grain of mustard seed into a mountain and try to ruin the character of a woman.” In the Indian Subcontinent, women are not always given equal opportunities as men. As this short list seeks to highlight however many extraordinary women of courage and character have made their mark on history– despite facing enormous obstacles and discrimination along the way. Stories like these provide hope that we can overcome all the stumbling blocks by promoting girl child education and salvation from the oppression of child marriage.