Top 10 Pioneering Women of India


Top 10 Pioneering Women of India

Great people inspire younger generation to achieve high goals. There have been numerous Indian women throughout Indian history, who have inspired younger generation of women and girls. This is a compilation of Top 10 Pioneering Women of India.

10. Kadambini Ganguly

Achievement: First Indian female physician and among the first Indian female graduate.


Kadambini Ganguly born in 1861 was among the first woman to graduate in British India from University of Calcutta along with Chandramukhi Basu. She also became the first Indian female physician in 1886 and was awarded GBMC (Graduate of Bengal Medical College) degree from Calcutta Medical College. She was among the first South Asian women to be trained in European Medicine. She was also actively involved in social movement to improve the working conditions for female coal miners. She was one of the six women delegate in the Fifth session of Indian National Congress.

9. Homai Vyarawalla

Achievement: First Indian female photojournalist.


Homai Vyarawalla was India’s first photojournalist, who became active in her career as a photographer in 1930. She was more commonly known by her pseudonym, “Dalda 13.” During her career, she photographed prominent national leaders and political leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and others in Nehru-Gandhi family. Shortly after her husband’s death in 1970, she gave up photography lamenting to “bad behavior” of the new age photographers. She passed away in 15th January, 2012.

8. Harita Kaur Deol

Achievement: First Indian woman Airforce Pilot.


Flight Cadet Harita Kaur Deol made history in September 1994 when she became the first Indian woman to do a solo flight in an Avro aircraft. It was a momentous occasion for the 5 feet 2 inch woman and Indian Air Force. Originally hailing from Chandigarh, she achieved this feat at 22 years of age. In 1992, IAF advertised first time 8 vacancies for women pilots. She became the first to accomplish this feat among the 7 other cadets. Each of eight girls’ performance was appreciated and comparable to their male counterparts.

7. Lakshmi Sahgal

Achievement: First female Indian commanding officer.


Lakshmi Sahgal commonly referred to as Captain Lakshmi was the first female commanding officer of Indian National Army. Before her active participation in India’s freedom movement, Sahgal received MBBS degree in 1938 from Madras Medical College. After failure of her marriage, she left for Singapore in 1940 where she met members of Netaji’s Indian National Army and there she set up a clinic for poor and migrant workers from India. It was this time when she took active participation in independence movement and headed the Rani of Jhansi regiment of Azad Hind Fauj. She was also the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government.

6. Bachendri Pal

Achievement: First Indian woman to scale Mount Everest.


Bachendri Pal became the first Indian woman to scale Mount Everest and the fifth woman in the world on May 22, 1984. She was part of a team named “Everest 84” consisting of 6 women and 11 men, who attempted climb the highest peak in the world. She was the only person in her team that was able to make her way through to the top along with another person from another team. For this achievement, she was recipient of Padma Shree Award.

5. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Achievements: First woman president of UN General Assembly and first female central minister of pre-independent India.


Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, sister of Jawaharlal Nehru was elected to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and became first Indian female central minister of local self-government and public health in 1937. She later became the first woman president of United Nations General Assembly in 1953. She also served as governor of Maharashtra in 1962 and later Indian representative to UN Human Rights Commission.

4. Mother Teresa

Achievements: First Indian female recipient of Nobel Peace Prize.


Mother Teresa, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was an Albanian Roman Catholic nun, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950. For over forty years she served the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, first throughout India and then in other countries. She was the recipient of Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and she also received many honors during her lifetime. She also received India’s highest civilian honor, Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her humanitarian efforts. Though she was never an Indian by birth, in her own words, “By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

3. P. T. Usha

Achievement: First Indian woman to reach final of an Olympic event.


P.T. Usha nicknamed Payyoli Express shot to fame in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 when she finished first in semi-finals of 400 meters hurdles. She became the first Indian female athlete to reach the final of an Olympic event where she missed the bronze by 1/100th of a second. Though she didn’t win a medal in Olympics, she inspired a generation of girls to become athletes. She has won a total of 30 international awards for her excellence in athletics. She currently runs Usha School of Athletics training young girls to participate in sporting events.

2. Kalpana Chawla

Achievement: First Indian woman in space.


Kalpana Chawla born in Karnal, Haryana was an Indian-American astronaut, who became the first Indian woman in Space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997. She was part of a six-member crew as a mission specialist and primary robot arm operator. She was later selected for a second mission in 2000 as part of a seven-member crew, which delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problem and finally the mission was scheduled for on January 2003. Chawla died during the shuttle’s reentry into atmosphere due to its disintegration over Texas.

1. Kiran Bedi

Achievement: First woman IPS officer.


Kiran Bedi is an illustrious social activist and a retired IPS officer. In July 1972, she joinedIndian Police Service and became the first woman to do so. She served in a number of tough assignments ranging from Delhi to Mizoram to Chandigarh to a United Nations delegation, where she became the Civilian Police Advisor in United Nations peacekeeping operations. In 1994, she won Ramon Magsaysay Award for her numerous reforms during her stint in Tihar Jail as the Inspector General of Prisons.


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