When US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, an Indian American, told a New York audience on Wednesday that her mother, who had gone to a law school in India, was not allowed to sit on the bench, she had meant she wasn’t allowed by her own family, as she said in her 2012 autobiography.
Speaking about her own rise, Haley said at a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, her mother, Raj Kaur Randhawa, “was actually put up to be one of the first female judges in India, but because of the situation with women she wasn’t allowed to sit on the bench”.
Haley added, “But how amazing for her to watch her daughter become governor of South Carolina and US ambassador to the United Nations.”
In her 2012 autobiography, “Can’t is not an option: My American story”, Haley wrote her mother, who belonged to a wealthy Punjab family and studied law (at Delhi university), was prevented by her own family.
“She was offered the first female judgeship in India, but couldn’t accept it because her family didn’t think it was appropriate,” she wrote, adding, “Women just didn’t do those things.”
It’s not clear from her book and remarks when her mother came up for judgeship, but Anna Chandy of Kerala was the first female judge in India. She became a district court judge in 1948 and a high court judge in 1959.
Raj Kaur Randhawa and her husband Ajit Singh Randhawa came to the United States in 1969 from Canada, where they had lived for a while after leaving India. She earned a master’s degree in education in South Carolina, and taught in the state’s public school system for some years. And then went on to start a business selling garments.
Haley, who was born to them in 1972 as Nimrata Randhawa, studied accounting and joined politics in 2004.
She has since had a meteoric rise in politics, first as member of South Carolina state House of Representatives, then two-term governor.