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They helped shape today's Singapore
by Theresa Tan

Shirin Fozdar

Born in 1905 to a wealthy family in India, the social activist came to Singapore in 1950 to spread her Baha'i faith. She and a group of women founded the Singapore Council of Women in 1952 to campaign against polygamy and to improve the lives of women here.

Their lobbying led to the passing of the Women's Charter, a set of laws that protect and advance women's rights, in 1961 and monogamy became the law for all non-Muslims. She died from cancer in 1992.

Dr Lee Choo Neo

Dr Lee became Singapore's first female doctor in 1919 at the age of 24, in an era when women were rarely educated and hardly worked.

The daughter of a well-known merchant, Mr Lee Hoon Leong, she was also a women's rights activist and co-founded the Chinese Ladies' Association of Malaya to promote the education of Chinese girls. She died in 1947.

Mary Quintal

One of the first batch of 10 women to be recruited into the Singapore Police Force in 1949, Mrs Quintal rose through the ranks to become its Assistant Superintendent in 1961, the highest-ranking female officer then.

Mrs Quintal, whose maiden name was Voon, was also among the first women in the civil service to receive the same pay as their male colleagues. She retired in 1974 after 25 years in the force.

Checha Davies

The daughter of a Methodist lay preacher, she was born in 1898 in India and became a lecturer. In 1925, she moved to Singapore to marry a Singapore teacher and later became a member of the Singapore Council of Women.

Mrs Davies was also president of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). She sold her house to raise funds to build a YWCA hostel for female workers. She died in 1979, aged 80.

Mother St. Mathilde Raclot

Born as Justine Raclot in 1814, the French nun entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus when she was 18 and set up the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) for girls in 1854. Today, there are 11 CHIJ schools in Singapore. She died in 1911.

Pat Chan

One of Singapore's Golden Girls, Pat Chan, now 59, won 39 golds at the SEA Games, a feat unrivalled by any Singaporean athlete until 2005.

At the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games, she competed in eight events, winning three silvers and five bronzes. In 1970, she also set a national record in the 200m backstroke which was not broken for 23 years.

Named the Best Sportswoman of Singapore for five consecutive years (1967-1971), she retired from swimming in 1973 and became a professional coach when she was 19. She later made her mark as a photographer and now runs her own media company.

Sarah Mary Josephine Windstedt

Born in 1886 in Ireland, Sarah Mary Josephine Winstedt pioneered modern infant care in rural Malaya. She also headed Singapore's first paediatrics ward at the Singapore General Hospital in 1932.

Sent to Malaya after completing a course at the London School of Tropical Medicine in the mid- 1910s, she treated mostly poor patients who lived in remote locations, sometimes even operating on kitchen tables.

After retiring from SGH in 1933, she wrote a set of primary school textbooks on tropical hygiene. She died in 1972 in England.

Gloria Lim

An expert on fungi, botanist Gloria Lim - born in 1930 - is a trailblazer in more ways than one.

She was the first woman to become Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Singapore in 1973, and the first woman to head the Department of Botany at the National University of Singapore in 1985.

The first Foundation Director at the National Institute of Education, she was also the first woman to be appointed to the Public Service Commission which oversees the appointments and promotions of senior civil servants.

Author of nearly 150 papers on fungal biology, she served as a member of, among others, the Singapore Science Council and the National Parks Board.

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