Today marks the birth anniversary of Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi, India’s first woman legislator. Google is celebrating her birthday by dedicating today’s doodle to Reddi, a surgeon, educator, lawmaker and social reformer, who not only devoted her life to public health but also fought against the widely prevalent social evil of gender inequality. In order to honor her, the Tamil Nadu government announced on Monday, that every year, her birth anniversary will be celebrated as Hospital Day across the state hospitals.

Born in 1886 in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, Dr. Reddi was also the first woman house surgeon in the Government Maternity Hospital, Madras. As the first woman member and vice president of the Madras Legislative Council, she co-founded the Women’s Indian Association in 1918.

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Dr. Reddi has many firsts to her name

Being the first Indian woman student in the Department of Surgery at Madras Medical College was just one of the many firsts for Dr. Reddi. Born in 1886 in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, she was also the first woman house surgeon in the Government Maternity Hospital, Madras. As the first woman member and vice president of the Madras Legislative Council, she co-founded the Women’s Indian Association in 1918. This also made her the first woman legislator in the country. She also helped to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls in our country. Not just this, but Reddi also pushed the council to pass the Immoral Traffic control act and to abolish the Devdasi System by urging the council to pass the Devdasi Abolishment Bill.

Resigned from her post to support the Salt Satyagrah

In order to participate in the Salt Satyagrah, she resigned from her post at the council. She established a shelter home called Avvai Home for Devdasi Girls in 1930, after two Devdasi girls knocked her door for help. She opened the Cancer Institute in Chennai in 1954 and was also felicitated with the Padma Bhushan in 1956.  At the age of 81, she passed away in 1968.

Reddi helped raise the minimum age of marriage for girls in our country. Not only this, but she also pushed the council to pass the Immoral Traffic control act and to abolish the Devdasi System by urging the council to pass the Devdasi Abolishment Bill.

On the role of women in the society, Dr. Reddi said, “Indian women have a great role to play in the modern world, with its chaos and rumblings of another war. With their background of philosophy and religion, with their apprenticeship under Gandhian leadership, with the sense of motherhood strong in them they can be and should be the ambassadors of love, peace, and unity. It is the Gandhian concept of non-violence alone that can save the world from a cataclysm. And it is the women of India alone who can carry the message best so that the world may come together in unity and peace.” (Published in the August 15, 1947 Independence Day edition of The Hindu.)

Today’s google doodle in which Dr. Reddi can be seen guiding young girls and women was created by Bangalore-based guest artist Archana Sreenivasan.

Picture Credit: The Hans India

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