Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy

  • Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy is India’s first female doctor, first female member of legislative council and the first in many more events. She was a social reformer who put all her efforts into reforming India so that a female child born today has an equal chance to succeed.
  • She came from a humble background in Pudukkottai. Her father Subramanya Iyer and mother Saanthammaal were an inter-caste couple. Therefore, Muthulakshmi grew up witnessing severe oppression. She was made fun of at school. Insults may wear down the ordinary, but not the extraordinary! She rose above insults stronger than before. “I cannot tolerate the oppression of anyone by society. If anyone is oppressed, I will be the first warrior opposing such oppression.”– Muthulakshmi was not even 20 when she swore the above words.
  • Though Muthulakshmi has brought about various reforms, her first one was epic by its own scale. During those days, when a woman of upper caste gave birth, women of lower castes were hired to nurse the newly born child. Muthulakshmi was startled when she saw this. Wet nursing is a practice used when the biological mother is unable to nurse her child. She was angered that the society had brought in their caste game even in such a normal practice. She protested with full vigour to change this. Soon after her protests, this practice started dwindling down.
  • Annie Besant was one personality who had a great influence on Muthulakshmi. All of Muthulakshmi’s efforts reached their zenith only after she joined Annie Besant’s Women’s Indian Association.
  • In 1927, by the recommendation of the Women’s Indian Association, she joined the Madras Legislative Council. From then till 1930 when she quit the post of Member of Legislative Council, she never stopped voicing out for women’s concerns. A bill to raise the minimum marriageable age for women, abolishing the Devadasi system and many more efforts of Muthulakshmi have been a game-changing move in Women Empowerment. She did not stop with bringing the laws, she jumped right onto the field and freed hundreds of Devadasis and recorded their statement about the horrifying realities Devadasis have to face. After these statements were played, the law abolishing the Devadasi system was implemented in 1947!
  • She married Dr. Sundara Reddy in 1914. The only condition she laid for the marriage was “I should be treated as an equal. I should not be hindered in the pursuit of my dreams.”
  • It is sad that such a warrior was failed by nature. When she was born, she suffered from diarrhea and cold. When she was of school-going age, she suffered from anaemia. During college days, asthma added to her list of health complaints. After child birth, she became all the weaker. Despite all these health issues, with will power as her medicine, Muthulakshmi won hearts by making this country a better place for women.
  • Avvai Illam and Adyar Cancer Institute are the results of her fight to empower women. Avvai Illam was a home created for those women failed by the society. Adyar Cancer Institute needs no introduction. Muthulakshmi founded it in 1954. She faced a lot of backlash for it initially. “Cancer is a terminal disease. Once affected by cancer, they’re going to die anyway. So why build a hospital for that?” Muthulakshmi answered all those with her usual tenacity and will power to do good. She raised funds through the Women’s Indian Association and opened the cancer institute on a small scale. Today it is the ray of hope that treats over 80,000 cancer patients, every year. “Change does not come by merely passing acts and laws. It comes from implementing those laws.” – this is one of her important anecdotes we should always hold in mind when we try to bring about a change.
  • “Change does not come by merely passing acts and laws. It comes from implementing those laws.” – this is one of her important anecdotes we should always hold in mind when we try to bring about a change.