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Celebrating 5 Pioneering Indian Women Engineers Who Have Inspired Later Women To Dream

Posted: June 22, 2020

23rd June is International Women Engineers Day. Celebrating 5 pioneering Indian women engineers who have been an inspiration for women who came after.

Who you are and what you become is defined by your choices and journey in life. You are the writer of your story and the sole narrator. The adventure, the decisions and the path that is taken by you make history.

Pioneering Indian women engineers have done the same, they wrote their own story by embarking into a world that did not accept them at first. These stories of women who have broken the shackles tied to them are a source of encouragement that one should dream and pursue it.

A few pioneering Indian women engineers are A. Lalitha – known as the first woman engineer of India, Rajeshwari Chatterjee – First woman engineer from Karnataka, and many more. The list below talks about only five pioneering Indian women engineers but the list is long, and each one has created a story that is inspiring.

A. Lalitha

pioneering Indian women engineers - A Lalitha

A. Lalitha, the very first woman engineer of India, was married at the young age of 15. Tragedy hit, and she was widowed at the age of 18 and had to battle the world singlehandedly with a four-month daughter. The support of her family made her lone-wolf journey easier.

She had been good at studies as a child, and her father was an electrical engineer, and supportive to her, so it was possible for her to decide to study further. There came a time when she had to decide what to pursue. medicine was no longer an option as she wasn’t able to give the required time and effort. That made her think of pursuing engineering.

But there was a problem – it was a space dominated by men, and no woman had stepped foot in the field of engineering. Her father being the professor at CEG, convinced the dean to enrol her. Her goal was to try to make a mark as an electrical engineer, and a year later was accompanied by two other women who enrolled in the same program.

Despite having a great career and moving between cities, she had to make certain sacrifices. Being a widow and single mother, she had to restrain from going onfield.

Throughout her career, she focused on providing women with an equal footing in engineering and other professional fields. She helped open doors to an area that never accepted women, and remains a personality that inspires.

P.K. Theresia

pioneering Indian women engineers - P K Theresia

P.K Theresia is the second of the trio who were the first women engineering graduates. She was always a bright student, and her father seeing her potentia,l pushed her to try her hand at engineering.

The push from her father made her enrol herself at the only Engineering college in India that accepted women students. Though she and Leelamma enrolled a year after A. Lalitha, they graduated with her as the second world war led to the college cutting down a few months of the program.

Theresia is still known as the only woman who was the chief engineer of a Public Works Department of state in all of Asia. She eventually did get married, she married her work and wanted to travel and absorb various cultures. She is a symbol of hard work and perseverance, a woman who dedicated herself to her work is an inspiration to all.

Leelamma (George) Koshie

Leelamma George Koshie

Leelamma graduated from CEG with a degree in civil engineering at the mere age of 19. She is one among the first women engineer trio.

She had finished her schooling at the age of 14 and hence moved to get her degree. At first, she tried her hand at medicine, a year into medicine, she couldn’t stomach the concept of dissecting a body. The other option was engineering, and Leela’s father spoke to the principal of CEG. Hence at the age of 16, Leelamma ventured in the field of engineering.

At the public works department, Leelamma worked as a junior engineer. The Maharani of Travancore admired Leelamma and wanted her to inspire the women of the kingdom. The queen also offered to sponsor Leelamma’s further education in England, where she could study town planning.

She returned to India in 1947 when India was moving towards independence from the British rule, this, in turn, impacted her career. Later she moved to Trivandrum with her husband, where she worked with PWD as an assistant chief engineer and completed many projects successfully. She finally retired in 1978 and dedicated her time to spiritual and religious growth.

Rajeshwari Chatterjee

pioneering Indian women engineers - Rajeshwari Chatterjee

Rajeshwari Chatterjee, the first woman engineer from Karnataka, is also known to be one of the first women to pursue her studies outside the country. An inspiring individual who was intrigued by the fields of Physics and Mathematics. Leading to her pursuing those fields.

Having travelled to the United States added to the ever-growing skillset, she attained a masters degree in Electrical Engineering and a few years later earned a PhD.

On returning to India, she wanted to be an educator and shared her knowledge through her writing and students. To achieve this goal and make it come true, she applied as a professor at the Indian Institute of Science. This lead to her being the only female professor in her department. She had to make sure she was taken seriously in comparison to her male colleagues.

Her life’s work was focused on papers and research dedicated to microwave engineering and antennae. Being content with her life’s work, Rajeshwari decided to push her energy towards activism. On retiring from the field of education, she tried to make a mark by challenging the social norms present in the country that pained her deeply.

Rajyalakshmi

Rajyalakshmi

The field of telecommunication engineering was introduced in India in the year 1945. The first batch of telecommunication consisted of all men except one, who stood out from the crowd, Rajyalakshmi.

Having set her mind to go to college, Rajyalakshmi got admission at CEG for an engineering degree. At first, she was all set on doing electrical engineering. Still, when the new program revealed itself, she decided to try her hand at something new and exciting. Leading for her new adventure to be filled with possibilities that were unplanned and spontaneous.

With her career at AIR, she was known to have a “scandalous” love affair according to the time. She fell in love with a man outside her caste, and her family tried to persuade her to leave him. She was determined to marry the man no matter what, making her family’s attempt futile. She moved around the country with her husband to support him as well as concentrate on her career. She pushed towards education being essential in an individuals life and also needed tor reform with time.  Always tried to make her life as exciting as possible while having full control over her decision, Rjyalakshmi encourages women to make their own choices.

These women and many more teach us that we cannot let others write our stories, we make our own paths. Our decisions are our choices that cannot be controlled. If you want to concentrate on your career or want o to balance a family and career and just concentrate on a family it all depends on you. Dreams and aspirations cannot be a measure of a genders entitlement, keep dreaming.

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