India Association Of Minnesota
Women Influencers of Our Times
Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, powerhouse woman, has always carried herself as an unapologetic force to be reckoned with. Even though her husband was the 44th President of the United States, Michelle has always branded herself as being an independent, revolutionary figure that all women of color can look up to. Michelle has never forgotten her roots as someone proud to be from the South Side of Chicago, going on to break monumental barriers at Princeton for college, and earning a J.D. from Harvard. Michelle is a reminder for many that ambitious dreams do not have to be a fantasy anymore, but can be achieved if one can believe in themselves, and want to pursue greater goals in my life. As a level-headed, compassionate soul, she redefined the role of the first-lady as being an approachable figure who’s embraced all of America’s children. Michelle left a legacy that future first ladies would look up to in years ahead.
In honor of Women’s History Month, it is important to commemorate one of the bravest women, Malala Yousafzai. At such a young age, this courageous woman stood up to the Taliban and fought for the opportunity for girls to receive an education. Her activism even led to death threats, but her passion for equality was too strong. However, Malala was shot in the head at 15 years old. Luckily, she was able to survive. After recovering from her assassination attempt, Malala continued to advocate for the importance of education. She raised plenty of global support and awareness by speaking out. At age 17, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest person to receive it. Today, Malala remains an advocate through the Malala Fund and continues to inspire young girls across the globe.
Shakuntala Devi, also known as the “Human Computer” was best known for her ability to perform lengthy mathematical calculations faster than a computer. From displaying her skills to the faculty of University of Mysore at age six to demonstrating her abilities at the Annamalai University, Shakuntala Devi performed all over the country. After time, she moved to London with her father, and became an internationally known name. Shakuntala Devi is best remembered for correctly giving the answer to the multiplication of two randomly picked 13-digit numbers. This extraordinary feat placed her in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1982 for the Fastest Human Computation. Beyond mathematics, Shakuntala founded a trust to provide quality education to underprivileged children, helped spread global awareness about India’s contribution towards mathematics, and authored numerous books on astrology and cooking. She was also an ally of the LGBTQ community, supporting those who were victimized by harsh social constructs. Shakuntala Devi inspires women all over the world to pursue dreams and aspirations that do not lie within the box but extend beyond.
“Nobody challenges me. I challenge myself.” - Shakuntala Devi
“You are just your intelligence.” This is what Kalpana Chawla said when she was traveling in the weightlessness of space on her first space mission in November 1997. Kalpana Chawla was an American astronaut, engineer, and the first woman of Indian origin to go into space. Kalpana was always fascinated by airplanes and flying as a child. As a child in India, Chawla went to flying clubs and watched planes with her father. She got a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College. She moved to the United States in 1982 and obtained a Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1984. She went on her first space mission in 1997 on the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. On this shuttle, she became the first Indian woman to fly into space. She went into space on her second flight in 2001 with crew STS-107. There was some damage done to the space shuttle - but the shuttle descended back to Earth. Upon contact with Earth’s atmosphere, the damage caused the spacecraft to become unstable and fall apart. Sadly, the crew was not able to survive. The University of Texas dedicated a Kalpana Chawla memorial at the Arlington College of Engineering in 2010. Kalpana was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal, and NASA Distinguished Service Medal. In order to honor her, NASA named one of its spacecraft after Kalpana Chawla - it launched in October 2020 and carried 8,000 pounds of scientific investigation to the International Space Station.
Mother Teresa, one of the most compassionate humanitarians of the 20th century has inspired many across the world. Mother Teresa was an epitome of sacrifice, love, service and humility who devoted her life to “give dignity and love to the old and terminally ill, regarding every individual as uniquely precious in God’s sight.”, a principle she lived by and inspired millions of volunteers to make a small difference in their own communities. Her lifelong endeavor of serving the poor, uncared for and vulnerable, establishing nursing homes, clinics, orphanages and care centers in 123 countries around the world won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Mother Teresa served with a servant's heart from a young age, lived to be 87 and attained Sainthood in 2016. Let us all remain inspired in her words " In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
Margaret Hilda Thatcher was the first woman to hold the office of Prime Minister for the United Kingdom, and was the longest serving person in that role. She was dubbed the "Iron Lady", for her uncompromising politics and leadership style. Joining active politics at the young age of 25, the Conservative party selected her as its candidate because, though not a dynamic public speaker, Roberts was well-prepared and fearless in her answers. She attracted media attention as the youngest and the only female candidate. Thatcher's talent and drive caused her to be mentioned as a future prime minister in her early 20s. Once holding office throughout the 1980s, Thatcher was frequently described as the most powerful woman in the world.
Thatcher supported an active climate protection policy and was instrumental in the passing of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, leading to put climate change, acid rain and general pollution in the British mainstream in the late 1980s. Thatcher ranked highest among living persons in the 2002 BBC poll 100 Greatest Britons and in 2016 topped BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour Power List of women judged to have had the biggest impact on female lives over the past 70 years.
Indira Gandhi was the first and, to date, only female Prime Minister of India. She served as prime minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian prime minister after her father, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. As prime minister, Gandhi was known for her political intransigency and unprecedented centralization of power. In 1999, Indira Gandhi was named "Woman of the Millennium" in an online poll organized by the BBC. In 2020, Gandhi was named by Time magazine among the world's 100 powerful women who defined the last century.