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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Indian Woman Ambassador

Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit  (18 August 1900 – 1 December 1990) was an Indian diplomat and politician, sister of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.In 1921 she married Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, who died on 14 January 1944. She was the first Indian woman to hold a cabinet post. In 1937 she was elected to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and was designated minister of local self-government and public health. She held the latter post until 1939 and again from 1946 to 1947. Mrs. Pandit was educated by governesses and tutors. 

Mrs. Pandit has taken a leading part in her country's politics and has served three terms of. imprisonment in connection with civil disobedience movements.In 1937 she was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces and became Minister foir Local Self-Government and Public Health, which position she held till her party resigned from office in 1939.She was re-elected in 1946 and again assumed the ministership of Local Self-Government and Public Health in the provincial government.

In 1946 she was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the United Provinces.Following India's independence from the British in 1947 she entered the diplomatic service and became India's ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1949, the United States and Mexico from 1949 to 1951, Ireland from 1955 to 1961 (during which time she was also the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom), and Spain from 1958 to 1961. Between 1946 and 1968 she also headed the Indian delegation to the United Nations. In 1953, she became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly.

In India, she served as governor of Maharashtra from 1962 to 1964, after which she was elected to the Indian Lok Sabha from Phulpur, her brother's former constituency. She held office from 1964 to 1968. Pandit was a harsh critic of her niece, Indira Gandhi, after Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966, and she retired from active politics after relations between them soured. On retiring she moved to Dehradun in the Doon Valley in the Himalayan foothills.

In 1979 she was appointed the Indian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, after which she retired from public life. Her writings include The Evolution of India (1958) and The Scope of Happiness: A Personal Memoir (1979).Her daughter Nayantara Sahgal, who later settled in her mother's house in Dehradun, is a well-known novelist.Gita Sahgal, the writer and journalist on issues of feminism, fundamentalism, and racism, director of prize-winning documentary films, and human rights activist, is her grand-daughter.

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