185-Dr. ANNIE BESANT - 01.10.1847 to 20.09.1933.

DR. ANNIE BESANT Known as "Diamond Soul" She belongs to British nationality and founded Women's Indian Association and became its President (1917 to 1932). She was the second president of Theosopical society. Multifacitated personality, champion of freedom struggle of India along with Gandhiji, educationist and the author of more than 300 books. Her dynamic leadership led her to start a scout movement at Adyar.

Mrs. MARGARET COUSINS — 07.11.1878 TO 11.03.1954.

Mrs.MARGARETTO LOCA COUSINS Co-founder of Women’s Indian Association. She is an Irish woman, Indian Educationist, suffragist, and theosophist. She is the co-founder of AIWC, New Delhi. She is credited with composing the tune of “jana gana mana”, later in the national anthem. As a co-founder of WIA, she is an editor of “Stri Dharma”, campaigned for Women’s education, abolition of child marriage. She organized and participated all Asia Women’s Conference. She was imprissioned in 1932 for supporting Gandhiji free speech campaign. She has three books to her credit on Indian women’s rights. From 1922 to 27 she was the Secretary of WIA.

SISTER R.S. SUBBALAKSHMI — 18.08.1886-20.12.1969.

President of WIA from 1946 to 47 Subbalakshmi was born at the remote Thanjavur village of Rishiyur, the other view was Mylapore in Madras as the first daughter of Visalakshi and R. V. Subramania Iyer (a civil engineer. Her father, R.V. Subramania Iyer was employed in the Public Works Department of the Madras Presidency) They belonged to an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family from the Tanjavur district. Subbalakshmi was ranked first in the public examination in the Chingleput District, for the fourth standard of the Madras Presidency at the age of nine. She was married while very young, as was customary, but her husband died soon after In April 1911, she became the first Hindu woman to graduate from the Madras Presidency and she did this with First Class Honors from Presidency college of Madras. She founded Saradha Ladies Union to help destitute widows and started Saradha Vidyalaya in 1939 at T. Nagar then handed over to Sri Ramakrishna Mission.

Dr MUTHULAKSHMI REDDY – 30.07.1886 TO 22.07.1968.

She was the President of WIA from 1932 to 45 and 66 to 68 One of the Pioneers in women’s movement. Freedom fighter and first woman medical student in 1907. First women as a legislator in British India. An Alder Women of Madras Corporation 1937, Chairperson State Social welfare advisory board 1954 and as Deputy President of Legislative Council. As a member she managed to have bill abolishing Devadasi system. Anti polygamy bill to be passed. She set up Avvai Home in Chennai 1930. Instrumental for setting up Kasthurbai Hospital for women and children in Triplicane, Chennai. Under WIA she started Cancer Relief Fund and set up a specialized hospital – Cancer Institute (WIA) in Chennai. In short she is an author of many social reforms.


WIA Secretary from 1937 to 1944 then Treasurer till 1949 and Vice President till 1966. Ambujammal Desikachari was an activist of women’s right under nationalist.As a Gandhian she participated in Civil Disobedience Movement and courted arrest in 1930 during Salt Satyagraha and also in boycotting foreign cloth, supported National Movement in donating Golden Jewells and embraced khadhi.As a Secretary of WIA, She was along with members in abolition of child marriage,polygamy, Devadasi system, Legislation to protect rights of women and their property rights .On behalf of WIA she was  nominated to Madras Corporation. As a founder of Srinivasa Nilayam in 1948,she provided free coaching to poor girls ,free dispensary , skill training and employment to women in printing press. She preferred village self-sufficiency model to industrialization .She was the chairman of State Social Welfare Board from 1957 to 1964.She was conferred Padmashri in 1964. 

MS.RADHABAI SUBBARAYAN – 22.04.1891 to 1960.

President of WIA from 1948-49 A Graduate of Madras Presidency College. At a tender age, she lost her husband and later married Mr., P.Subbarayan, Jamindar of Kumaramangalam .In 1930 along with Begum Shah Nawaz, attended first round table conference at London and again at the second round table conference for Indian women demanding 5% reservation for women .She was elected to the Council of States in 1938 and became first woman member of the council of state. As a politician,she was the member of Indian Parliament and remained as an activist of women’s rights and a social reformer.

RUKMINI LAKSHMIPATHY – 6.12.1892 to 6.8.1951.

President of WIA from 1947-48 She was from the first batch of graduates from Women’s Christian college of Madras. She was the first woman to be in the country to be imprisoned during salt Satyagraha in Madras Presidency.She donated her Gold Jewells to Harijian Welfare Fund. She worked for women empowerment was associated with organization like Women’s Indian Association and Bharat stree Mandal She advocated social reforms and opposed child marriage .In 1926, Congress debuted her to attend the international Women’s Conference on Suffrage in Paris. On 26 January 1930,she unfurled the national flag to mark Independence Day. IN 1937, she was elected as first woman member of madras Legislative Assembly and also served as the Deputy speaker of the Assembly .In 1946,she became the first woman Minister As health Minister Played a significant role in popularizing Ayurveda and Indian systems of medicine.

DR. SAROJINI VARADAPPAN-21.09.1921-17.10.2013.

Service at WIA FROM 1932 TO 2013 and she was the President of WIA from 1974 to 2013. Dr. Sarojini Varadappan first started her public work at the age of 18 as a volunteer during Mahatma Gandhiji’s visit to Chennai in 1930. She was the daughter of late Sri Bakthavatsalam, former Chief Minister of TamilNadu. Her education was stopped due to the Hindu custom as girls were not allowed to go to school after a certain age. But due to her persistent efforts, she studied privately and passed visharada in Hindi Diploma in Sanskrit and did doctorate in vaishnavisam at the age of 80 yrs. She learnt carnatic music and play violin and an sports women in Tennis and Badminton and learnt yoga. She was the chairperson of Tamilnadu Social Welfare Board, Chairman Central Social Welfare Board, Sheriff of Madras, Hon. Magistrate in the Juvenile Court, Area commander of Home Guards, President Marketing Co-operative Society, State Commissioner of Girl Guide, State Commissioner of State planning commission, Director Madras Metropolitan water supply and sewerage Board, Member of Divisional Railway user’s consultative and National Commission for women, Member of the film sensor board. 

 She received Padma Shree in 1973, Silver Elephant for Scouting, Gold Medal for Red Cross Work, Sri Sakthi Award from Tamilnadu Govt, Jamanlal Bajaj Award in 2004, Padma Bushan award in 2009. She was the trustee for three temples. She joined WIA at the age of 20 and worked along with Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy and also responsible for the construction of Cancer Hospital at Chennai, Patron of AIWC, started Sarojini Varadappan Girls Higher Secondary School, donated lot of land for public cause served WIA from 1932 to 2013. She travelled extensively many countries of the world as delegate to attend conferences in connection of social causes.