Wednesday 12 March 2014

108 lauded on virtual Women's Hall of Fame

By Theresa Tan, The Straits Times, 6 Mar 2014

ON A wall at the Waterloo Street home of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) are tributes to nine women who improved the lives of others here.

Now the SCWO is expanding the wall by taking it online, where it will honour, for a start, 108 remarkable women, such as activists, movers and shakers in various professions, and a housewife who has cared for more than three dozen abused or abandoned children.

The national co-ordinating body for women's groups will launch its virtual Singapore Women's Hall of Fame at a gala dinner on March 14 to mark International Women's Day this Saturday.

Its president Laura Hwang said: "We want to make sure these women's lives are documented as they are so significant and inspiring and they can serve as role models, especially to the younger generation."

The nine on its wall include war heroine Elizabeth Choy; the former Member of Parliament who campaigned for the Women's Charter Chan Choy Siong; and women's rights activist Shirin Fozdar, who initiated the formation of the Syariah Court. The Women's Charter is a set of laws that protect and advance women's rights.

Mrs Hwang said it did not start with a fixed number of women to celebrate, but a selection panel, headed by Ambassador at Large Tommy Koh, had pared the list down from more than 200 names.

Those on the list include well-known names such as novelist Catherine Lim, corporate heavyweights such as Temasek Holdings' chief executive Ho Ching and SingTel CEO Chua Sock Koong, politican Halimah Yacob and former swimming champions Patricia Chan and Joscelin Yeo.

Others include leaders such as Dr Noeleen Heyzer, the first Singaporean chosen to head a UN agency, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, in 1994. She later became the first woman to lead the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, overseeing regional development for Asia-Pacific states. She is now special adviser to the UN chief for Timor Leste.

Said Dr Heyzer, who is in her 60s: "I'm very honoured and humbled that my work is recognised by Singapore."

Also honoured are pioneers in various fields, such as Dr Lee Choo Neo, who became Singapore's first female doctor in 1919 and Mary Quintal, one of the first women to be recruited as a police constable and who rose to become the first female assistant superintendent of the Singapore Police Force in 1961.

Also in the Hall of Fame are ordinary women who gave of themselves generously, such as Madam Indranee Nadisen, a housewife in her 70s who fostered more than three dozen abandoned or abused children.

The public can also nominate women they think deserve to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The website,, goes live on March 14.

Work on launch began 2 years ago
By Wong Kim Hoh, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

The virtual Singapore Women's Hall of Fame will be launched on Friday but work on it began two years ago.

The ball started rolling when nine researchers from the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) started searching the National Library and other archives to look for women who have made an impact in Singapore.

SCWO president Laura Hwang said: "We wanted to show a diversity of women in various fields. What is key is that the women must be pioneers, first in their fields, or have significant contributions. We have a whole list of must-haves, including the X-factor."

The research team came back with a list of more than 200 names such as Teo Soon Kim, the first female lawyer, and Lee Choo Neo, the first female doctor, in Singapore.

Six months ago, a selection panel headed by Ambassador At Large Professor Tommy Koh and comprising Mrs Hwang, non-resident Ambassador to Finland Jaya Mohideen, chief executive of National Library Board Elaine Ng and adjunct law professor Kevin Tan, started whittling down the list.

"It took us two lunch meetings and several e-mail discussions over six months before we arrived at the happy number of 108 for 2014," says Prof Koh. "This is just a first shot. More names will be added in the future."

Settling on the final 108 women for this year's list - which includes activists and high achievers from 13 different sectors - was no easy task.

"When the list was first presented, I felt there was a gap in certain sectors, such as science and industry. So I asked Professor Andrew Wee, Dean of Science at the National University of Singapore, for help. He came up with some names," Prof Koh says.

Dr Kevin Tan says: "The selection panel gave some priority to the older women as we felt that their tributes are overdue. Besides, there are many more opportunities for the younger ones to be recognised in the future."

For Mrs Hwang, several of the women honoured have touched her life personally. They include Mother St Mathilde Raclot who founded the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) schools.

Born in 1814, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus when she was 18. She was sent to Penang and later Singapore to set up a convent school for girls. She started the CHIJ school at Victoria Street and also founded an orphanage and a home for abandoned babies.

Mrs Hwang says: "Without Mother Mathilde, I would not have the education I have had. It was also through the orphanage that I first learnt that we have a part to play in helping others."

Pioneers and high-fliers
The Singapore Council of Women's Organisation will unveil its Singapore Women's Hall of Fame on Friday honouring 108 activists and achievers in 13 sectors including law, medicine and social work. The Sunday Times finds out how the women were selected and profiles several of these high-fliers.

No anger towards mum who sold her as a slave
By Wong Kim Hoh, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

Janet Lim's life story would make for a gripping television melodrama.

Although she was born into a well-to-do family in southern China, life took a dark turn after her sinseh father died when she was eight years old.

Her mother - who lost her father's estate to an uncle - and stepfather sold her as a mui tsai (little sister) or child slave and she was trafficked to Singapore in 1930.

She managed to escape a life of servitude, get an education, become the first local hospital matron and marry an Australian doctor. Now 90, she wrote a book, Sold For Silver, about her tumultuous life, in 1958. The book was reprinted about 10 years ago.

On the phone from Brisbane in Australia, where she has lived for the last 45 years, she sounds sprightly.

Madam Lim, who has three children and six grandchildren, is hard of hearing so her daughter-in-law, Mrs Eleisha Strang, 50, helped her answer questions during the phone interview.

She says that she does not harbour bitter feelings towards her mother.

"I've always loved my mother in spite of what she did. She did not have any choice, she was that poor," says the eldest of four children. Her two sisters died in their infancy; her brother died when he was four years old.

The couple who bought her from her mother in Ampo, a town near Shantou in China, trafficked her to Singapore where a towkay and his second wife bought her for $250.

The businessman made her life a living hell by always trying to molest her.

In 1932, the British colonial powers banned the import of mui tsai and required the registration of existing ones.

The law saved her. Madam Lim ran away and convinced the Chinese Protectorate Office that she was being ill-treated by the towkay.

She was placed in an orphanage in York Hill and later sent to the Church of England Zenana Missionary School, where she received an education.

After leaving school, she worked as a nurse at St Andrew's Mission Hospital.

But her life was thrown into turmoil again when World War II broke out and the Japanese invaded Singapore.

She tried to flee to India on a ship but the ship sank after it was bombed by the Japanese. She was rescued by a fisherman and taken to Sumatra only to be captured by the Japanese.

For three years, she was tortured and beaten, and was nearly made a comfort woman.

"My faith helped me through my darkest periods," says the Anglican.

After the war, she helped comfort women at the Social Hygiene Hospital before returning to work at St Andrew's.

In the late 1940s, she became the first nurse from Singapore to study nursing in Britain. Two years after she returned in 1952, she became the first Asian nurse to be appointed hospital matron at St Andrew's.

In 1959, she married an Australian doctor, Errol Strang. The couple moved to Australia in the late 1960s after working stints in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.

Writing and publishing Sold For Silver took several years.

"I wrote quickly but had to stop many times because it was very emotionally draining. I was always crying," she recalls.

Of all the upheavals in her life, she says being lied to by her mother was the most traumatic.

"She lied to me and told me we were going away and we would be happy. I trusted her but she took me away to be sold instead."

Madam Lim devoted her life to raising her three children after settling down in Australia. Her husband died in 2002, but she kept herself busy with Bible study classes and gardening. A fall last year has slowed her down.

Mrs Eleisha Strang, who works as a bookkeeper, says her mother-in-law - who will be attending the launch of the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame on Friday - is a remarkable woman."She's extremely resilient. If I had experienced what she did, I know I would never live to 90 without being resentful and bitter.

"She has a lot of strength, and it has allowed her to forgive the people who have wronged her."

Swim Queen in the Asian Games
By Wong Kim Hoh, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

It is 9.30pm in Melbourne and Junie Sng sounds a tad pooped.

Holding down a job as an IT specialist and parenting two boisterous sons, she says, is hard work.

"I'm always running after them, trying to get them to clean up their rooms, clean up after themselves," she says of her two children, Zachary, 10, and Sebastien, six.

In fact, the 49-year-old says with a laugh, parenting is a lot harder than the training she used to put in to become Singapore's Swim Queen of the 1970s and early 1980s. Her eight years in the pool reaped two Asian Games gold medals and 38 golds from four SEA Games.

"With training, it's just yourself. But bringing up little people is different, you have two personalities who will not always do what you want them to do. But they're gorgeous boys. I just hope I'm doing right by them," she adds.

She is chuffed that she, along with 107 other women, are honoured in the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame.

"A lot of hard work went into that," says Sng who ruled the pool for eight years until she retired in 1983.

She will be flying here from Melbourne - where she has lived since 1980 - with her two boys and nightclub promoter husband, Geoff Holden, 60, to attend the gala dinner on Friday.

She hopes the evening will give her sons a better idea of what Mummy achieved in her youth.

"They've seen some photographs but I don't think they really understand what I did. Hopefully, the experience will give them something to aim for should they have a sporting career," she says.

The younger of two girls (elder sister Elaine also has several Asian Games medals) of an artist and a teacher, she made a splashing debut at age 11 at the 1975 Seap Games, winning one gold and one silver.

There was no stopping her after that. In 1977, she won five gold medals and broke six meet and two Asian Games women's records at the Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The year 1978 proved to be even more glorious.

At the Asian Games in Bangkok, she took two golds (400m and 800m freestyle) and one silver, making her the first Singaporean woman swimmer to win an Asian Games gold medal, and also the youngest ever to win not one but two gold medals in the Asiad.

In 1981, the country was dismayed when its Golden Girl and her family emigrated to Australia. But she gave Singapore a magnificent present at the 1983 SEA Games when she amassed 10 golds in the pool.

She retired after that to concentrate on her studies and graduated with an applied science degree from the Queensland University of Technology in 1987.

In retrospect, she says she should have trained one more year so that she could take part in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

"For any athlete, that is the highest form of competition you could aim for," says Ms Sng who made the finals in the 400m and 800m freestyle at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada.

She could not go to the Montreal Olympics in 1976 because Singapore swimmers were then banned from competing against China. Moscow in 1980 was another lost opportunity when Singapore joined the United States in boycotting the Games after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Not having swum in the Olympics is the only regret she has about her sporting life.

"I'd do it all over again if I could," she says. "It did me a lot of good. I represented my country, travelled, met many people. I've been very lucky to go as far as I did."

Ms Sng, who still holds a Singapore passport, has not gone into the pool much since retiring.

"I would always choose something else, like working out at the gym. Swimming is not at the forefront, probably because I did so much of it as a kid," she says, adding that her husband is now the athlete in the family. A steeplechaser, he will soon be taking part in a national event for veterans.

She is not ruling out getting into competitive swimming again though, especially since her elder sister has started competing in veterans' swimming meets in Queensland.

"It's hard to find the time now but when the kids are older, who knows?"

Senior cop 'never saw gender as an issue'
By Theresa Tan, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) Zuraidah Abdullah, 51, is no stranger to making history.

The eldest of four children of a bus driver and a mother who worked three jobs, she was the first in her extended family to attend university.

She was also the first Malay graduate to join the Singapore police force in 1986, through its direct entry scheme where university graduates became senior officers.

Last year, she became the first woman to be promoted to the post of senior assistant commissioner. She is now the highest-ranking female police officer here.

She said: "We live in a meritocratic country that provides equal opportunities, so never use your gender or race as an excuse for not performing. My motto is to work hard and never stop learning."

She learnt discipline, diligence and resourcefulness from her parents at an early age.

"My mother is my greatest influence. She always told me to find solutions to problems, instead of blaming the problem," she said.

For example, when money was tight, her mother, who has died, would cook and sell lontong to make ends meet, on top of juggling three jobs as a nanny, cook and cleaner.

To earn money to buy snacks and other treats, the young Zuraidah caught grasshoppers and seafood such as eels and crabs and collected empty bottles to sell.

SAC Zuraidah, who holds an engineering degree from the then Nanyang Technological Institute, graduated during the economic slump in 1985, when engineering and other jobs were scarce.

So she went into teaching but left after six months as she felt it was not the right fit for her. A recruitment advertisement for police officers with the tag line, "every day is different", caught her eye.

Even as a rookie cop, she never felt intimidated in a profession dominated by men.

At her university, there were eight males to one female in her engineering class.

SAC Zuraidah, who described herself as a "stickler for discipline and punctuality", said: "I never saw gender as an issue. We trained together with the men and we had to do the same things they did. It was not like men ran 10km, and women, 8km.

"I have had to earn respect by demonstrating that I can do the job - regardless of my gender."

She is married to retired policeman Abdul Aziz Mohamad Noor, who is 15 years her senior. Mr Abdul has three adult children from his first marriage.

In her 28 years with the police, she has been involved in the whole gamut of police work from investigations and operations to planning and training.

She was a team leader in the Crisis Negotiation Unit, which talks people out of killing themselves.

She recalled a construction worker who was perched on top of a crane that was 10 storeys high. His girlfriend had left him, he had problems with his boss and he wanted to end his life.

After 17 hours of persuasion, SAC Zuraidah and her colleagues managed to coax the man to get down.

She is also the first woman to be appointed to the board of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and was previously seconded to be the chief executive of Mendaki, the self-help group for the Malay/Muslim community.

Today, 17 per cent of the more than 8,000 police officers in Singapore are women, a number which has grown significantly from her rookie days, she said.

SAC Zuraidah, who hopes the recognition she has won will inspire other women, added: "You can do it too."

She put Singapore on UN map
By Theresa Tan, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

Dr Noeleen Heyzer, 66, is best known for putting Singapore on the United Nations (UN) map.

In 1994, she became the first Singaporean to head a UN agency, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem), which gives aid to improve women's lives in more than 100 countries.

In her 13 years as the Unifem chief, she was credited with putting issues affecting women high on the UN agenda, significantly increasing its budget and improving its programmes.

In 2007, she became the first woman to head the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap), the UN's regional development arm.

She was said to have strengthened its capacity and effectiveness in engaging and supporting the Asia-Pacific countries in economic and social growth.

Now, the UN veteran of almost 25 years is the special adviser to the UN chief for Timor Leste, to support the country's nation-building after 25 years of being occupied by its neighbour Indonesia.

Her husband, former Malaysian Member of Parliament and social activist Fan Yew Teng, died in 2010 of cancer. She has twin daughters who are in their 30s.

Born to a Eurasian father and a Chinese mother, she was six when her mum. Her dad remarried and she was brought up by her grandmother, a widow who was uneducated but who stressed the importance of education.

Coming from an "extremely poor" background, Dr Heyzer said in an interview: "There were circumstances that made me a leader because I saw so many things falling apart as a child, both within the country and at home.

"I found that either I took leadership and found solutions, or things would get worse or wouldn't get done."

She received her Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Science from the then University of Singapore and a PhD in sociology from Cambridge University.

She worked in banking for less than a year, found it unsuitable, and her "outrage over human suffering and injustice" propelled her into development work, she said in interviews.

Among her proudest professional achievements, she told The Sunday Times, was to get the UN Security Council to look beyond maintaining international peace to also focus on how war affects women, such as rape being used as a wea-pon of war, and to stop the abuse.

With the Security Council implementing the landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, this paved the way for women to participate in peace negotiation and the electoral process and to help shape their post-conflict societies.

She said the landmark resolution led to equal inheritance laws in Burundi in east-central Africa, women being given full citizenship rights in Afghanistan and more women entering politics in countries such as Rwanda and Liberia, among other things.

As Unescap head, she worked closely with Asean and the Myanmar government to assist in recovery efforts after Cyclone Nargis ravaged Myanmar in 2008.

After that, she was able to win the trust of Myanmar's leaders and initiate dialogue between international scholars, such as Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz, and Myanmar government agencies to help develop the country.

She has been recognised as helping to catalyse the opening up of Myanmar.

Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh said Dr Heyzer has "invigorated" Unescap, "bringing a new vision, energy and relevance" to the organisation.

He added: "Singaporeans of both genders ought to know more about Noeleen Heyzer and admire her good work. She was an eloquent champion of women's rights."

Dr Heyzer said she was most moved when member states of the UN gave her a standing ovation when she stepped down from the UNESCAP recently.

Dr Heyzer, who has lived overseas for more than 30 years and is now based in Bangkok, said: "Eventually, I plan to come back to Singapore."

A champion for the helpless
By Wong Kim Hoh, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

For someone who will start the first of 10 radiotherapy sessions for gum cancer tomorrow, Miss Daisy Vaithilingam is remarkably upbeat.

"I've worked in hospitals and I come from a family of doctors. And I know the doctors will take very good care of me," says the 88-year-old social work pioneer whose illness was diagnosed earlier this year.

There is another reason for her high spirits.

"I'm so impressed by the reactions of my family and friends. They have been so caring and loving. I feel so cherished; what is there to worry about?"

Many call and visit her regularly at her three-room HDB flat in Toa Payoh; some have set up a taxi fund for her visits to the hospital.

There is just one downside, she says with a grimace.

"There are a lot of things I can't eat because I can't chew. Everything has to be blended and tastes like nothing. I can't add chilli, not even ginger."

Her treatment means she cannot attend the Singapore Council of Women's Organisation gala dinner on Friday where she will be honoured as one of the 108 women in the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame.

The youngest of four children, she had always wanted to care for the helpless and needy.

Her mother, a nurse, and her stepfather, a doctor, were her role models.

She has left huge footprints on Singapore's social work scene. She started the first fostering scheme for children, assigning abandoned children to hospital attendants and amahs for care.

She also lobbied for financial aid for parents of intellectually disabled children, helped set up the Singapore Association of Social Workers and chaired the first Committee of the Care of the Aged.

Although she read English Literature, economics and geography at the now defunct Raffles College, she went into social work after listening to a talk by a medical social worker at the university.

In the 1950s, she left for England to be trained in social work and returned after three years to help set up a social service structure at the Singapore General Hospital.

Miss Vaithilingam, who is single, was a social work lecturer for 15 years at the National University of Singapore.

She has never been afraid to speak up. "If I felt there was a problem, I would open my mouth," says the feisty woman who once stood up to Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Minister of Finance, during a tuberculosis outbreak in the 1960s. She told him that medical treatment should not just be limited to Singaporeans, but extended to immigrants too. Dr Goh listened to her and extended the treatment to immigrants.

The avid cricket fan is happy that her contributions to social work are being recognised.

"I'm proud of many things but I'm proudest of my students, all of whom have done brilliantly. I'm so happy that so many of them are doing wonderful things to help those who need help."

The visionary educationist
By Theresa Tan, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

The late Dr Ruth Wong, who has been described as a visionary educationist who transformed the training of teachers here, did not set out to be a teacher.

Dr Wong once wrote that "no profession befitted my intellectual capacity better" than medicine. A devout Christian, she also hoped to run free clinics for the poor.

But the eldest of 10 children gave up a scholarship that could have paved the way for her to study medicine. Her father's tailoring business was badly hit during the Great Depression in the 1930s and she became a teacher to support her family.

Her younger sister, retired professor of medicine and cardiologist Wong Hee Ong, 86, said: "Ruth always placed others before herself."

Because of her sacrifice, her siblings were able to continue schooling and many of them became doctors, professors and other professionals.

Dr Wong, who never married and spent 44 years in education, died of colon cancer at the age of 64 in 1982.

She was in her 30s when she won a scholarship to attend Queen's University in Northern Ireland to do an arts degree and she eventually did her Masters' and doctorate degree in education at Harvard University.

She taught for more than 10 years at various schools, headed the Teachers' Training College and when it became the Institute of Education in 1973, she was its first director. The national teacher training institute is now known as the National Institute of Education (NIE).

Professor Tan Oon Seng, NIE's dean of teacher education, said Dr Wong boosted the quality of teacher education and laid the foundation for innovations in teaching in the 1970s. This was a time when Singapore was a developing nation and the focus was on finding enough teachers to teach the growing population.

She saw the need to go beyond training teachers to be proficient in the subjects they teach, to also give them a deeper perspective that would enable them to think critically and understand how children learn so they can teach better, he said.

She reconceptualised the teacher education programme and put in place new ways of teaching, learning and assessment. Dr Wong elevated the status of teachers at a time when teaching was often seen as a job of last resort, her sister Hee Ong said.

She emphasised higher education and sent her staff to obtain post-graduate degrees so they can better train the next generation of teachers.

She also introduced ground-breaking ideas in her time, such as promoting education research, and introduced counselling in schools.

The weakest and most disadvantaged students had a special place in her heart and she would go all out to find ways to help them, he said.

Prof Tan, who knew her as a teenager through church where she taught bible classes, added: "She is the most visionary educator I know of. She was also a very caring and approachable lady.

"She influenced us into thinking that teaching is more than a job, it is a calling that will bring blessings to others."

Dr Wong's sister Hee Ong said she was a caring big sister who taught her siblings subjects such as Latin and Additional Maths.

Last year, Hee Ong wrote a book titled Ruth Wong: Educationist And Teacher Extraordinaire to tell the story of Dr Wong's life.

Dr Wong, who once described herself as "rather introverted" and "frequently tongue-tied", never thought she could teach.

She wrote to the Christian Teachers' Fellowship weeks before her death: "There were dark patches sometimes, but rewarding experiences more than compensated for this. Always the students were loveable and responsive to love. Would I take up a medical course if permitted to live my life again? No."

They helped shape today's Singapore
By Theresa Tan, The Sunday Times, 9 Mar 2014

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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