The Iconic Women, Who Inspired Kovaiites

The women of Coimbatore were ahead of their times. They were hard working, innovative and result oriented. These women came from all walks of life. Some of them were street vendors and quite a few were flower vendors. Quite a few were tailors, food vendors as well. Many working women added to the lustre of their families in our region. This article hopes to illuminate the memories of the citizens by recalling a few of the fabulous and interesting women who added to the beauty of Coimbatore.
Coimbatore had come up like the phoenix in the past. The region went through several ups and downs over the last 2000 years. However, the zeal to survive and flourish ensured that the region continued to contribute. The socially conscious women of this region did a lot by doing business, offering their time and services in the interest of one and all. The Coimbatore Day and Coimbatore Vizha have been celebrating the spirit of the city in a fantabulous manner.
Coimbatorean women had contributed towards a number of charities long ago. Their monies were received by some charitable organisations and a few of the families have a record of the same. Though the details are found underneath the sands of time, the resources have helped these institutions grow into huge banyan trees. The women who are in this story belong to a diverse range of professions. Some of them were social workers while a few of them were entrepreneurs. Of course doctors are found on the list.
Chinnammal Rangaswamy Naidu comes in as the senior most committed lady in this list. She was born in the last quarter of the twentieth century and lived long. Her hard work and toil had helped her family come up. She had been a committed farmer and was considered to be extremely lucky. Her sons R.Venkataswamy Naidu and P.R.Ramakrishnan were extremely successful industrialists. They were behind the huge ventures like Madras Aluminum Company and South India Viscose. T.V.M.Thillai Ammal of Seva Nilayam was a noble soul who had led a simple life. She devoted her life towards the upliftment of destitute girls and women. She was the daughter of T.A.Ramalingam Chettiar, the father of the Co Operative Movement. Savithri Shanmugham, the daughter of India’s first finance minister Dr R.K.Shanmukham Chetty was a member of the legislature and a social worker. Many women just stayed back with her and her huge dining table used to be occupied all the time. A road near Race Course is named after her. J.Manoranjitham was a social worker from Vysial Street. She believed in gender equality and was ever busy with work connected with the needy.
Rajammal Devadas of the Avinashilingam Institutions had done much for women’s education. Her role was commendable. Chandrakanthi Govindarajulu of P.S.G.R. Krishnammal College for Women has done a lot for girls all her life. Besides all this she served the society through a number of institutions like the Indian Red Cross Society. Parvathi Krishnan, Kulandai Ammal, Ganga Nair, G.V.Rajammal were among the public representatives who had served the society. The sisters PSGN. Perumal Ammal and PSGN. Janaki Ammal took care of their lands in an efficient manner. Dr.N.Ranganayaki was a pioneering academician who had done good work at the PSG Institutions.
Amirtham Varadaraj, wife of L.G.Varadaraj was a good social worker and did pioneering work for the differentially abled. Her centre continues to serve the society. Audrey was the first woman to start a Beauty Parlour at Coimbatore. She had done so at the behest of Chandrakanthi Govindarajulu. Her parlour was located at the Ladies Super Market, a part of Chinthamani in the year 1974. A few who learnt under her became quite successful over the years. Velumani Venkatesalu of the Ramakrishna family was an excellent hostess and she used to facilitate a lot of good things. She was a daughter of P.S.G.Ganga Naidu. Lakshmi Bai, the daughter of S.P.Ramaswamy Chettiar used to manage S.P.R Jewellery and she was also involved with politics.
Jaya Meenakshisundaram was an eminent person. Her book ‘Functional Aesthetics’ is a wonderful document. Her good work is a treasure for researchers. Swarna Somasundaram sang all her life and she used to teach Thevaram, Thiruvasagam and Thirupugazh for years. Her students are eminent people today. The residence of Swarna Somasundaram at R.S.Puram used to be full of people all the time. Dr. Swarnam, Dr.Manonmani, Dr.Sharadha, Dr.Leela Meenakshi, Dr.R.Sarojini, Dr.Isaiah were among the pioneers of the times. Dr.R.Sarojini was UK educated and was known as ‘Pesum Deivam’ by her patients. She was the first woman from Coimbatore to do her higher medical education abroad. Her hospital was known for its hygiene.
Rukmini Govindarajulu, the daughter of Diwan Bahadur P.S.G.Rangaswamy Naidu and P.S.G.R.Krishnammal was connected with the P.S.G.R.Childrens School and the A.L.G Matriculation Higher Secondary School. Newspapers had once published the speech that was given by her at the Avinashilingam Institutions. Sundaribai, the wife of A.T.Devaraja Mudaliar was closely associated with the Ladies Recreation Club and a host of other bodies. Neelaveni Soundaram, wife of G.Ramaswamy Naidu of the P.S.G family had put in a lot of time in the interest of the society. Kamalam Venkataswamy Naidu, the wife of R.Venkataswamy Naidu used to manage R.V.G Higher Secondary School at Kurichikootai in Udumalpet. Padma Ranganathan was associated with a few ventures and her cookery book ‘Raseesha’ continues to be a ready reckoner.
Pankajam Williams, Mrs.Newman, Mrs.Anantharaz and Mabel Charles were popular during their tenure at the G.R.G Institutions. Particularly Mabel Charles was known to be good with English poetry and used to sing well. Her approach was inclusive and the students continue to remember her a genuine person. Chellammal of Keshavardhini Oil was an amazing business person. She was known for her practical and pragmatic approach. She was known for her excellent marketing skills and used to be fully involved with the advertising strategy of her business. Sundari Kuppuswamy was keenly involved with INTACH, Coimbatore Book Club a number of causes. Kausalya Govindarajulu, the wife of jeweler K.S.Govindarajulu was a keen social participant who had coordinated a number of events during her active years. Veda Krishnaswamy, who was known as Veda Mami was an exponent of music who had won the appreciation of a number of people. Coimbatore Thayi was a popular musician whose good work was documented by people from Europe. The high quality work of Coimbatore Thayi is being referred to by a number of writers, researchers and columnists around the world.
Coimbatore had a number of other teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs among women and the spirit of their good work continues to keep the city progressive. Their lives are sure to inspire Coimbatoreans to achieve much in their lives.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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