Vijayalakshmi Ramanan, a trailblazer in the field of aviation and medicine, will always be remembered as the first woman to become an officer in the Indian Air Force (IAF). Born in February 1924, she embarked on a remarkable journey that would leave a lasting impact on the armed forces and inspire future generations of women.
After completing her MBBS degree, Vijayalakshmi Ramanan joined the Army Medical Corps on August 22, 1955. Soon after, she was seconded to the Air Force, marking the beginning of her groundbreaking career as an IAF officer. Alongside her role as a gynecologist in various Air Force Hospitals, including notable assignments here, she also demonstrated her dedication by attending to the wounded troops during times of war and fulfilling important administrative responsibilities.
Recognizing her exceptional contributions, Dr. Ramanan received a promotion to the rank of Wing Commander in August 1972. Five years later, she was bestowed with the prestigious Vishist Seva Medal, a high honor given to members of the Indian armed forces for their distinguished service. These accolades underscored her significant achievements and the impact she had made within the armed forces.
Dr. Ramanan’s commitment to serving the nation extended beyond her military responsibilities. She was a trained Carnatic music artist and had even worked as a performer with All India Radio at a young age. Her dedication to multiple domains showcased her versatility and passion for excellence.
As the first woman officer in the Indian Air Force, Vijayalakshmi Ramanan faced unique challenges and paved the way for future generations of women in the armed forces. Reflecting on her experiences, she once said, “For quite some years, I was the only lady officer in the air force. Initially, I was scared to work with men, but I was brave and thought to myself, I could face anything.” Her courage and resilience inspired others and shattered gender barriers within the military.
During her time in the Air Force, Dr. Ramanan encountered another challenge – the absence of uniforms for women. Undeterred, she took matters into her own hands and custom-tailored a sari and blouse in the Air Force colors. Her initiative led to these uniforms becoming the standard issue for women officers, a testament to her resourcefulness and determination.
After serving the Indian Air Force for an illustrious 24 years, Vijayalakshmi Ramanan retired as a Wing Commander in 1979. Her remarkable achievements and contributions to the armed forces were recognized and honored throughout her career. Notably, she was awarded the Vishist Seva Medal on January 26, 1977, by the then President of India, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, for her exceptional medical care for women and children affiliated with the armed forces.
Sadly, on October 18, at the age of 96, Vijayalakshmi Ramanan passed away in Bengaluru due to health complications. Her legacy as a pioneering woman officer and compassionate doctor will continue to inspire generations to come.
Vijayalakshmi Ramanan’s indomitable spirit, dedication to her profession, and unwavering commitment to serving the nation have left an indelible mark on the Indian Air Force and the medical field. Her trailblazing achievements have paved the way for women to excel in traditionally male-dominated domains, and her memory will forever be cherished as an icon of courage and determination.