Biography of Mithan J. LamGeneral Knowledge »
Indian Women Activist Mithan J. Lam Biography
Mithan J. Lam was one of the First Women in India to be qualified as a Barrister – at – law from Lincoln’s Inn. Mithan J. Lam was the first Indian woman lawyer at the Bombay High Court. Mithan J. Lam was appointed as the Sherrif of Bombay, the First Indian Woman to be thus honored, during the year of India’s Independence.
Mithan J. Lam had a self – sacrificing and compassionate character. Mithan J. Lam conducted classes for underprivileged and women of India. Mithan J. Lam worked incessantly for peace and co – neglected immunal harmony. The plight of the poor and the needy touched her and Mithan J. Lam worked sincerely for their cause.
Mithan J. Lam took keen interest in the civic and educational affairs of the country – side and started an agri – cultural college for rural boys.
Mithan J.Lam was the daughter of Ardeshir and Hirabai Tata. Mithan J. Lam was born on 1898. Mithan J. Lam spent her early childhood at Phulgaon ( a small town near Nagpur ) where her father was working as the assistant weaving master of a textile mill. From childhood she was very imaginative and lived in a world of wonder and ecstasy. From Phulgaon, her family moved to Ahmedabad, where her father was appointed as the Assistant Manager of a larger textile mill. Later Mithan J. Lam came to live in Bombay, where her father had been made the Manager of an important textile mill.
Thus, as a young girl Mithan J.Lam was lucky to travel all over India. Mithan J.Lam matriculated from Frere Fletcher School in Bombay. When Mithan J. Lam was studying at school Mithan J.Lam came under the influence of Annie Besant. Mithan J. Lam described her in her memoirs as, ‘one of the most forceful, lucid, and brilliant orators,’ whose ‘ideas and imagery flowed like a gushing stream, raising her listeners to great emotional heights’.
Later Mithan joined Elphinstone College in Bombay and graduated with Honours in First Class, and won the Cobden Club Medal for the highest marks in Economics. From the London School of Economics she took her M.Sc. in Economics. Mithan J. Lam decided to take the bar exams simultaneously with her M.Sc studies and qualified as a Barrister of Law from Lincoln’s Inn.
Mithan J. Lam married Jamshed Sorab Lam, an Attorney and Notary Public. Jamshed Sorab Lam was one of the successful lawyers of his time. Jamshed Sorab Lam was a man of broad vision and supported her in every way to realize her potentiality and talents.
A son and a daughter were born to them but unfortunately her baby daughter died in infancy. Her son, Soli grew up to be a highly promising young man who made a name for himself in the medical world as an orthopedic surgeon and consultant. Jamshed Sorab Lam invented the revolutionary technique of surgery on a fractured kneecap, for which he was awarded the Hunterian Award in the U.K., thus becoming the second Indian to have received this signal honor.
Influenced by her mother, Mithan had an urge to fight for women’s rights, particularly the political vote for Indian Women. Later inspired by Sarojini Naidu’s ardent speech she embarked to England along with her mother, as a representative of the Bombay Women’s Committee of Social Workers to give evidence before the South – borough Commission on Indian Reforms.
Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant and other leaders were already in England to give evidence before the Commission. On behalf of the Bombay Women’s Committee of Social Workers, Mithan toured England and Scotland, lecturing on the need for equal suffrage rights for Indian Women.
Mithan J. Lam was one of the speakers in the House of Commons, along with Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu, and Major Graham Pole, to speak for Indians women’s right to vote. This became the first Indian Reform Bill to be passed as an act of Parliament. Two years later Indian women obtained the right to vote.
Returning to India, Mithan J. Lam was admitted at the Bombay High Court. Mithan J. Lam joined the chambers of one of the foremost legal luminaries, Bhulabhai Desai. Her male colleagues envied her. As a result Mithan J. Lam had no friends and walked solitarily through the corridors of the Court for three years until other women barristers joined her. The Maharashtra Government appointed Mithan as the Justice of Peace and as the special Executive Magistrate.
Mithan J. Lam was appointed as the part – time Professor at the Law College in Bombay. Later Mithan J. Lam amended the Parsi Marriage and Divorce act of 1865.
Mithan J. Lam retired from the legal profession at her own will and devoted her time for social work. Mithan J. Lam joined the Maharashtra State Women’s Council and was elected Chairman of its Labour Sub – Committee.
Mithan J. Lam with other Committee members started work in the Matunga Labour Camp, which was one of the worst slums of Bombay. As part of her hard work, Mithan J. Lam succeeded in providing them with some basic facilities like electricity, water, a dispensary, nursery school, and sewing classes for women.
Later Mithan J. Lam became the President of the Maharashtra State Women’s Council. Mithan continued her work for the upliftment of women. The Government of India appointed Mithan as the Chairman of the Women’s Committee set up for the Relief and Rehabilitation of Refugees from Pakistan.
From their “headquarters” Mithan with other women workers visited the camps at Mulund, Kalyan and other parts of the State, traveling hundreds of miles to bring solace and help to the uprooted women and children, who had been victims of the Partition of India.
Mithan J. Lam had been closely connected with the All – India Women’s Conference started by the Irish rebel, Mrs. Margaret Cousins. Mithan J. Lam was appointed Vice – President for India of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and became the Founder – President of the Indian Federation of Women Lawyers.
Mithan J. Lam was also made Chairman of the 13th Convention of the International Federation of Women Lawyers. In 1964, Mithan became the President of the Women Graduates Union of Bombay.
Widely traveled in Europe, Australia, Middle East, and West Africa, Mithan J. Lam attended many International Conferences. She was a delegate at the Asian Workshop of the Committee of Correspondence held in the U.S. Mithan was appointed Member for U.N. Affairs in the All India Women’s Conference. At United Nations, Mithan represented the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the A.I.W.C as observer to the U.N.
Mithan J. Lam was the Editor of the A.I.W.C. Journal, Roshni for a number of years, and later Mithan J. Lam was the Chief Editor of La Abogada, the Newsletter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers. Her works include a Civil Code for All India, Women in India, A Survey of Women in Jobs and Professions, Careers for Women, and an unpublished book of her memoirs, Autumn Leaves.
In recognition of her long and arduous career of public service, Mithan J. Lam was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India.
During her last years, Mithan J. Lam had to live a very solitary life due to her deafness. Yet Mithan J. Lam managed to do her work with dedication. The death of her husband was a great blow to her, after forty – five years of happy married life.
Mithan J. Lam survived him only by two and a half years. Her life was full of success and accomplishments. Mithan J. Lam was honored in all her ventures. Mithan J. Lam will eternally live in the heart of all Indians as a pioneer for Women’s liberation.