International Women's Day: 15 Fantastic Firsts For Singapore Women

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International Women's Day: 15 Fantastic Firsts For Singapore Women

STORY: Sim Ding En
08 March 2022
What was Singapore's first school for girls? When did the Singapore Police Force get its first batch of female officers? Who was Singapore's first female Olympian?
What was Singapore's first school for girls? When did the Singapore Police Force get its first batch of female officers? Who was Singapore's first female Olympian? | Illustration: 123RF

This International Women's Day (8 March), we shine the spotlight on historical events and inspiring trailblazers that broke glass ceilings in and for Singapore.

In early 19th century Singapore, education was not a priority for the colonial government and immigrants. Schools...

Posted by ConnexionSG on Thursday, 27 June 2019

1842: Singapore's first school for girls

The oldest school for girls in Singapore - then known as Chinese Girls' School - was founded by missionary Maria Dyer in an effort to save mui tsai (Cantonese for "little sister"), the term for bonded domestic servants. The students were taught English, the Christian faith and home economics. It was only in 1949 that the institution gained its current name - St Margaret’s School.

Incidentally, the second school for girls (Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus; which is now CHIJMES) was established in 1854, while the third (Raffles Girls' School) was set up in 1879.

Dr.Lee Choo Neo: The first Chinese woman to qualify as a doctor.

Posted by Peranakan People, Pictures, Portraits and Paintings on Tuesday, 15 April 2014

1920: Singapore's first woman doctor

The daughter of a Straits Chinese businessman, Lee Choo Neo graduated from medical school in 1919 and became the first woman in Singapore to become a practising medical doctor. She started her own clinic at Bras Basah Road in 1930, and focused on maternity care.

#throwbackthursday – 1st batch of female officers More than a century after the first rag-tag police force was set up...

Posted by Singapore Police Force on Thursday, 27 March 2014

1950: Singapore's first batch of female police officers

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) welcomed its pioneer batch of 10 female officers in January 1950. One of them, Mary Quintal (an alumna of Raffles Girls' School), went on to become the first female Assistant Superintendent of Police in 1961, making her the highest-ranking female officer in the organisation at the time.

1952: Singapore’s first female Olympian

At the age of 19, Tang Pui Wah competed in the 100m sprint and 80m hurdles at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. This sporting legend went on to shine not only as a sprinter and hurdler, but also as a long jumper and high jumper, before retiring from athletics in 1955 at the age of 22.

#SaturdaySpotlight shines on Kanwaljit Soin. Kanwaljit is a highly accomplished orthopaedic and hand surgeon. She was a...

Posted by Singapore Women's Hall of Fame on Saturday, 11 May 2019

1992: Singapore’s first woman NMP

Not only was Kanwaljit Soin the first woman in Singapore to become a Nominated Member of Parliament, she was also Singapore's first female orthopaedic surgeon. On top of that, she was a bonafide kick-starter:

  • She was the founding member of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), and its president from 1991 to 1993.
  • She was the founding chair of the Singapore chapter of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
  • She was the founding president of Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS).

1994: First Asian woman to head UNIFEM

Noeleen Heyzer became the first woman outside of North America to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in 1994. She was also the first woman to serve as the executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (since its establishment in 1947), and went on to hold the post of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations from 2007 to 2015. That means, during her term. she was the highest-ranking Singaporean in the UN system.

#SaturdaySpotlight is on Anastasia Gan, Singapore's first female commercial pilot. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Anastasia and a handful of...

Posted by Singapore Women's Hall of Fame on Saturday, 15 September 2018

2001: Singapore’s first female commercial pilot

Anastasia Gan soared across two worlds - military and civilian. In 1979, she was part of the pioneer batch of female pilots in the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and served in the force till 2000, before joining Silkair in 2001 and becoming Singapore's first female commercial pilot.

As Singapore's first female fighter pilot, she soared to the skies where no woman had gone before. It is not easy to...

Posted by The Republic of Singapore Air Force on Thursday, 20 March 2014

2003: Singapore’s first female fighter pilot

Joining the RSAF in 2000 at the age of 19, Khoo Teh Lynn rose through the ranks, starting off as a wingman before achieving her wings and being posted to 143 Squadron, which operates the F-16C/Ds. She was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014 – the same year she became a mum.

2004: Singapore’s first swimmer to take part in the Paralympics

Theresa Goh was the first swimmer to represent Singapore at the Paralympics when she participated in the 2004 Athens Games. Most recently, the advocate for disability sports and Singapore's most bemedalled para-athlete played the role of Chef de Mission for the Bahrain 2021 Asian Youth Para Games. (A chef de mission is a person in charge of a national team at an international sports event.)

Photos: Sport Singapore

2008: Singapore’s first gold at Paralympics

Para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu touched the wall first at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (she won the the 50m backstroke in the S3 category), making her maiden outing all the more special and unforgettable. She picked up her fourth and fifth Paralympics gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrating 70 Years of Women in Policing [Zuraidah Bte Abdullah]

<<< Celebrating 70 Years of Women in Policing>>> To celebrate International Women’s Day and 70 years of #womeninpolicing, six policewomen share with us their stories about life as a police officer. [Story 1 of 5] When Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Zuraidah Bte Abdullah first joined the force, there were not many female senior officers in operational roles. Determined to change that, she worked hard and was given the opportunity to take on operational and leadership roles. This is her story. #sgpolicefeatures

Posted by Singapore Police Force on Saturday, 2 March 2019

2013: Singapore’s first woman SAC of Police

Zuraidah Abdullah was actively involved in the National Cadet Corps during her school days, and, in 1986, answered an SPF career advertisement that read: “Join the police force, every day is different.” She went on to become the first woman to hold the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police – the third-highest rank in the SPF - and the Airport Police Division's first woman Commander the year after.

National Day Parade 2014: The first female Red Lion parachutist, Third Warrant Officer Shirley Ng, finally made her...

Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, 9 August 2014

2014: Singapore’s first female Red Lion parachutist jumps at NDP

3WO Shirley Ng was supposed to make her debut as the first female Red Lion parachutist to jump at the National Day Parade in 2013. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, the jump was cancelled. She got a second chance at NDP the following year.

COL Gan Siow Huang will receive her new rank of Brigadier-General on 1 Jul.

Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Friday, 26 June 2015

2015: Singapore’s first female brigadier-general in the SAF

Starting out as an Air Traffic Controller, Gan Siow Huang worked her way through the ranks in the Singapore Armed Forces. Along the way, she became the first female commander of Air Surveillance and Control Group, and was the first female military officer to be sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston where she attained an MBA. She received the rank of Brigadier-General on 1 Jul 2015, making her the SAF's first female general.

2017: Singapore’s first female head of state

Halimah Yacob - who was elected as a Speaker of Parliament in 2013, becoming the first woman to hold this post - was inaugurated on 14 Sep 2017 as Singapore's 8th President and its first female head of state. She said in her first address as President from the Istana State Room: "Today, I want to assure all Singaporeans that as your President, I will serve every one of you, regardless of race, language or religion."

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TAGS: Exceptional People
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