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VIOLET ALVA (1908–1969)

Violet Alva was a politician, and the first woman to hold the deputy chair of the Rajya Sabha or the Upper Chamber in India. She was the first woman advocate in India to have argued a case before a full High Court bench in 1944. She was also the first woman to be elected to the standing committee of the All India Newspaper Editors Conference in 1952. She was born Violet Hari to a Protestant family on 24 April 1908 and was educated at St Xavier’s College and Government Law College in Mumbai. At the latter she met Joachim Alva, a Catholic. They married and she started participating in social work, journalism and the freedom struggle. In 1942 during the Quit India Movement, Violet went to jail with her infant child. In 1944 she began a women’s magazine, The Begum, later renamed Indian Women. From 1945 to 1953 she was the secretary of the Agripara Rehawasi Sevamandal in Mumbai. In 1946–47 she was the deputy chairperson of the Bombay Municipal Corporation. In 1947 she served as an Honorary Magistrate in Mumbai. From 1948 to 1954 she was the President of the Juvenile Court there. Violet was actively involved with numerous social organisations like the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Business and Professional Women’s Association, and the International Forum of Women Lawyers. She was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1952. She was Union Deputy Minister for Home Affairs from 1957 to 1962 when Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister. She served as deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha from 1962 to 1966 and again from 1966 to 1969. She resigned from the Rajya Sabha on 17 November 1969, and died of a heart attack on 20 November.

A portrait of Joachim and Violet Alva the first Parliamentarian Couple was unveiled in Parliament in 2007. A commemorative stamp of late Joachim and Violet Alva was released by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil in New Delhi in November 2008, coinciding with the birth centenary year of Violet Alva. Their daughter-in law Margaret Alva is an important Congress leader.
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