What inspired you to research on the women and their stories?
I was writing a series for a Tamil magazine about exceptional women and I came across this person called Lalitha, who was the first engineer of the country, from the Guindy College of Engineering. There was just one article on the Internet about her. It set me thinking why women from North and other parts of the country were discussed so much, while we don’t have much material on the ones from the South
Tell us a little about the ‘Wonder Women’.
Apart from Lalitha, I came across Anna Mani, who later went on to become the deputy director general of Indian Metallurgical Department from the field of Science, and historian Theodore Baskaran told me that she along with other women suffered immense bias in Dr CV Raman’s lab. When I read about them, I learnt that while 30 men from the same lab got their PhDs, a handful of women couldn’t. One of the women, Sunanda Bai, had committed suicide after she failed to get a PhD. In the field of press, there were two remarkable women — Kamala Sathayanathan who edited and published the first woman’s magazine in English -- Indian Ladies Magazine started in 1901. Then there was Kothainayagi, who wrote 115 books and was the first woman editor of a magazine called Jaganmohini. In the field of cinema, TP Rajalakshmi (who was the first woman director) and Thavamani Devi, who appeared in bold roles and later was ostracised, abandoned and disowned by family and society, when she re-fused to yield to favours sought by filmmakers. She had spoken about the existence of casting couch, in the later years. She had settled down in Rameshwaram, marrying a widower. In the field of social activism and politics, I chose to speak on Ammu Swaminathan and Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy.