Demand to honour Mavis Dunn Lyngdoh

Speaker writes to CM for a statue on state central library premises

Shillong, Sep 19: Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh has urged the government to honour late Mavis Dunn Lyngdoh, who was the first woman in India to become, a cabinet minister, by installing a full size statue in the city.

“I would like to request the government to consider putting a full size statue of Late Mavis Dunn Lyngdoh, on the premises of the State Central Library and honour her achievement and service to our people,” Lyngdoh said in his letter to the Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.


On the occasion of golden jubilee year, he said it will be proper  to honour late Mavis.

Mavis was the first woman in India to become a cabinet minister. She was born on June  4, 1906, to H. Dunn and Helibon Lyngdoh, Presbyterian Christians of moderate means. Her father’s brother, Edward W. Dunn, was  made a member of the British Empire in recognition of his services to civil engineering.

She studied at the Welsh Mission Girls’ School, Shillong, the Diocesan College and the Bethune College, Kolkata, where she obtained her BT degree.

While in Kolkata she first met Mahatma Gandhi. She was also the first Khasi woman to qualify to practise law from the University Law College, Guwahati.

Her political career began in 1937 when she was elected a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly as an independent candidate, the first woman to accomplish this at the age of 33. In 1939, Sir Mohammed Syed Saadulla invited her to join his government as a cabinet minister.

She held the health portfolio, and was able to open the posts of nurses in government hospitals to all trained women, whether they had learned their skills in public or private institutions. This was of benefit to the Northeast as there were no state training schools for nurses there.

Mavis was defeated in the elections of 1946 and retired from politics, but continued to be active in social work.

Throughout her career she stayed away from party politics, and while this prevented her from being embroiled in the conflicts that often rose within parties, it also meant that she was confined to the sidelines of political action.

She was associated with the government of Assam after independence in an advisory capacity. Just before the end of her life she toured the West, giving lectures in the US and UK. She was tall and attractive, with a cultured taste and style and a modern way of living. She never married and was the first Khasi woman to drive a car.

Her example gave independent India hope that women from marginalised communities might come forward and make their mark in public life.

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