First Women in India – Administration, Governance & Judiciary

First Women in India

Contrary to popular notions of patriarchy where women were oppressed, below is the list of extraordinarily brave Indian women who have broken gender barriers and made their mark in history in multiple fields including politics, science, technology, literature, etc.

A Comprehensive List of First Women in All Fields in India

As "First Women in India" is an important topic in the GK for all competitive exams and due to the vastness of the topic, we'll explain it in a three-part series covering all the important fields.

Below is the list of First Women in India covering fields of Administration & Governance and Judiciary.

Administration & Governance

  • First Woman Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi (1966).
  • First Woman President of India Pratibha Devi Singh Patil (2007).
  • First Woman to contest in a Presidential electionManohara Holkar (4th presidential election in 1967, no votes).
  • First & Last Muslim Woman ruler of DelhiRazia Sultana (1236 –1240, Slave Dynasty).
  • First & Only Muslim woman to be elected in the Constituent Assembly of India drafted the Constitution of India Begum Aizaz Rasul (1946).
  • First Woman to hold a Union Cabinet PortfolioVijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1937).
  • First Indian Woman President of UN General Assembly Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1953).
  • First Woman Governor of Independent India Sarojini Naidu, in charge of United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh, 15 August 1947 - 2 March 1949).
  • First Indian Woman to become the President of the Indian National CongressAnnie Besant (1917).
  • First Woman President of Indian origin to preside over Indian National CongressSarojini Naidu (1925).
  • First Woman Chief Minister of an Indian StateSucheta Kripalani (Uttar Pradesh, 1963 - 1967).
  • First Dalit Woman to become Chief Minister of an Indian State – Mayawati (Uttar Pradesh, 1995).
  • First Woman Central Minister of IndiaRajkumari Amrit Kaur (1947 - 1957, Health Minister).
  • First Woman nominated to Rajyasabha Rukmini Devi Arundale (1952, Bharatanatyam dancer).
  • First Woman member of the council of states (Rajya Sabha) pre-independent India Radhabai Subbarayan (1938).
  • First (and only) Woman Secretary-General of the Rajya SabhaV. S. Rama Devi (1 July 1993 - 25 September 1997).
    • First Indian Woman to become Chief Election Commissioner of India V.S. Ramadevi (1990).
  • First Woman Full-time Defense Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman.*
  • First Indian Woman to become Finance Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman.
  • First Woman Railways Minister of India Mamata Banerjee (13 October 1999 - 15 March 2001).
  • First Woman Full-time External Affairs Minister of IndiaSushma Swaraj.*
      Sushma Swaraj
    • Youngest Woman Minister of a state (She became the cabinet minister of Haryana when she was only 25 yrs old).
    • First Woman Chief Minister of Delhi (1998).
    • First Indian Woman spokesperson for any national political party in the country.
    • First Indian Woman to hold a Union Foreign Minister's post (2014).
  • First Woman Speaker of Lok SabhaMeira Kumar (2009).
  • First Woman Speaker of a State Assembly - Shano Devi (1966).
  • First Indian Woman to be appointed as the Chief Information Commissioner Deepak Sandhu (2013).
  • First Woman Mayor – Tara Cherian (Chennai, 1957).
  • First Woman to become Mayor of DelhiAruna Asaf Ali (1958).
  • First Woman AmbassadorC. B. Muthamma (Ambassador to Hungary, 1970).
  • First Woman Foreign SecretaryChokila Iyer (2001).
  • First Woman Chief SecretaryNirmala Buch (Madhya Pradesh).
  • First Woman Secretary of a StateLakshmi Pranesh (Tamil Nadu).
  • First Woman IAS Officer of IndiaAnna Malhotra (1951).
  • First Woman ICS officer of British IndiaIsha Basant Joshi.
  • First Woman Chairman of Union Public Service Commission Roze Millian Bethew (1992).
  • First Indian Woman to become President of India’s Apex Chamber of Commerce, ASSOCHAMDr. Swati Piramal.
  • First Woman President of FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry) – Naina Lal Kidwai.
  • First Woman Chairperson of Indian Airlines Sushama Chawala.
  • First Indian Woman Chairperson of State Bank of India Arundhati Bhattacharya.
  • First Indian Woman to head a Navratna PSU company Nishi Vasudeva.
  • First Woman director-general of ICMR G. V. Satyavati.
  • First Woman Chairperson of Import-Export Bank Tarjani Vakil.
  • First Woman Chairperson of the National Women Commission Jayanti Patnaik.
  • First Woman Customs & Central Excise Commissioner Kaushalya Narayan.
  • First (& only) Indian Prime Minister to die in officeIndira Gandhi (1984).
  • First Woman Chief Minister to die in office J. Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu.
  • First Woman Chairman of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) – Soma Mondal. **
  • First Woman MD & CEO of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) Chitra Ramakrishna.

Judiciary

  • First Woman Lawyer of IndiaCornelia Sorabji (1892).
  • First Female legislator in IndiaMuthulakshmi Reddy (1926).
  • First Woman Judge Anna Chandy (1937,  District Judge (munsif) Travancore by the Dewan Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer).
  • First Woman High court JudgeAnna Chandy (February 1959 - April 1967, Kerala).
  • First Woman Chief Justice of High Court Leila Seth (Himachal Pradesh).
  • First Woman to be appointed as the judge of the Supreme CourtJustice Meera Sahib Fatima Beevi (1989, Apex Court judges).
  • First Woman to be appointed as MagistrateOmana Kunjamma. 
**updated according to current statistics.

    📝 SideNotes:

    • Sarojini Naidu's birthday is celebrated as National Women's day in India on February 13.
    • Autobiography of Anna Chandy – Atmakatha (1973).
    • First Women's Court in India – Malda, West Bengal.
    • First Women's University – Maharshi Karve starts SNDT University in Pune with five students in 1916.
    • First External Affairs Minister – Indira Gandhi also held the additional charge as Minister of External Affairs while being the Prime Minister of India.
    • First Female Employment Office – Jaipur.
    • Nirmala Sitharaman – Although Nirmala Sitharaman is the first full-fledged defense minister, the reality is that it was Indira Gandhi when she took the ministry of defense portfolio under her tenure in office as prime minister in 1975.

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