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FATIMA JINNAH (1893–1967)

Fatima Jinnah’s brother was Muhammed Ali Jinnah with whom she lived after their father died when she was eight. She was educated in the Western mode, studying dentistry, though in 1929 her brother’s political career began to make demands on her time, and she accompanied him to the Round Table Conference that year. In 1934 she joined the Muslim League, opposing orthodox attitudes to women and working for their social upliftment and emancipation. She led the All India Muslim Women’s Committee on its founding in 1938. She toured India, organising collectives and student federations and promoting adult education. She also established the Fatima Jinnah Women’s College in Lahore.

After the creation of Pakistan, she helped her brother manage the hospitality of the Governor General’s house, but his early death sent her into retirement. She came back into the public eye in 1954, once again campaigning for the Muslim League, and became a fearless critic of totalitarian government. She was prevailed upon to stand against Ayub Khan in 1965 as a consensus opposition candidate; she lost the elections amid orthodox horror at the thought of a woman becoming head of state and allegations that Ayub Kahn had rigged the polls. Her campaign evoked a strong response from the people, and in Dhaka she won a majority of the votes. She became known as Madr-e-Milat, or Mother of the Nation. Fatima Jinnah Women University is named in commemoration of the contributions made by her to the cause of women emancipation.
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