K R Gowri Amma, the legendary woman minister in the world’s first democratically-elected Communist government, is 100 years old. Gowri Amma’s century also ran parallel with the rise and fall of women power in Kerala. In its ascendant phase, she rose by her sheer grit and will power and in the descendant phase, she was trampled underfoot.
When Gowri Amma was born in 1919, Kerala was undergoing major social changes—with active women’s participation. Gowri Amma’s father K A Raman, who was proactive in the movement that brought about the changes and a keen observer of the developments taking place in the society on that front, named her after a young woman who was in the forefront of women’s advancement.
That young woman was Gowri, the first woman from the backward Ezhava community to obtain the BA degree. The Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) had presented her with a gold medal at its session at Thiruvananthapuram in 1917 for being the first woman from the community to obtain graduation. Gowri went on to become the first woman from Kerala to obtain MA in English in 1919 and was feted at many functions across Kerala. On his return home from one such function, Raman told his wife, Parvathy, who was expecting, of his desire to give their child Gowri’s name if it was a girl.