Today we’re Celebrating Anglo-Indian Woman Power

On this International women’s day, let’s take a look at some exceptional women!

Independent India’s first woman postmistress was Mary Isaacs Rebeiro, who was the chief at the ( Kashmere Gate , Maiden’s Hotel and Mori Gate , from 1940 ) in an all – male Postal environment when less than 1 percent  of India’s Organised Sector workforce was female and 16 percent of  Indians were literate .

She was from one of Delhi’s well-known Anglo-Indian families.

In fact, wearing ‘two hats’: managing the home and a career, is something that Anglo-Indian women have been doing long before, other Indian women were allowed to step out of their homes. In fact, Anglo-Indian women were India’s first ‘working ladies’ , stepping out of their homes from the 1900’s!

You must have seen that great musical ‘The King and I’, about Anne Leonowens

Anne Leonowens

and the King of Siam. Well, Anna was an Anglo-Indian, born in Ahmedabad, daughter of a British sergeant and an Anglo-Indian mother. She  traveeled a lot, was widowed in Penang, and later settled in Singapore. It is from Singapore that she sailed to Siam, to become the English teacher to the Royal Household of Siam. She championed women’s rights not only in Siam, (she left Siam in 1868) for Canada, where she was at the forefront in the women’s struggle for voting rights.

The famous Mary Ann Dacomb Scharlieb,  a pioneer British female physician and gynaecologist in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, was one of the first four women students at the Madras Medical College. the other three were Anglo-Indians, the misses White, Beale and Mitchell. The four passed out in 1878, White topping the LMS class, with Scharlieb ranked second and Beale too getting a first class. According to an article in ‘The Hindu’,  the path Scharlieb and several Anglo-Indian girls first trod was followed by the first Indian woman wanting to be a doctor, Krupabai Satthianadhan. But after topping the first year, ill-health forced her out of medicine and into writing. It was to be 1884 before more Indian girls joined MMC and in 1887 Abala Das, Rose Govindurajulu and Gurdial Singh were the first Indian women to receive the LMS. In 1912, Muthulakshmi Reddy became the first Indian woman to get a medical degree from the University of Madras.

Dr Anne Mary Fernandez was the first woman Registrar of the University of Madras (2003-06). She too, is an Anglo-Indian.

Dr Daphne De Rebello was the first woman Indian Administrative Officer from Andhra Pradesh. She served as the GOI head of education at Unesco headquarters in Paris, and at the  Adminstrative college of India. She has a PHD in Comparitive education from Stanford University!

Look up ‘Helen of Burma’, an Anglo Indian Nurse  Helen Rodriguez of Bangalore and Ooty. She was awarded the King Gerore Medal (the civilain’s Victoria Cross) for her bravery and dedication to service in war-torn Burma, when it was overrun by the Japanese soldiers,

H.A. Berry receiving from the President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the Ashoka Chakra (Class II) posthumously awarded to her daughter Kumari Gloria Berry, Air Hostess

during World War II.

The first Anglo-Indian woman to win an Ashok Chakra  (1956) was air hostess Gloria Berry who died when Air India’s  ‘Kashmir Prncess’ was sabotaged on a flight between Hong Kong and Jakarta.

The surviving crew members testified to her courage and bravery during the last minutes of the flight.

Anglo-Indian women were an essential part of the workforce in the emerging new India and especially in newly independent India. They have been teachers, air-hostesses, secretaries, movie actors, doctors, and in government service as well.

Newsnet One salutes the many Anglo-Indian women who continue to be India’s true professionals.

[Frank Krishner]




One Response to Today we’re Celebrating Anglo-Indian Woman Power

  1. Anglo Indian women were indeed the pioneers, when it came to stepping out of the home and into the workplace. They should be given their due recognition. A timely article by Mr Frank Krishner.

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