Pioneering women’s rights activist
The daughter of a Methodist lay preacher, Checha Davies became a lecturer at the Women’s Christian College in Madras, India after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics and English history. In 1925, she moved to Singapore where, besides starting a family, she became active in church and voluntary work.
Checha became a campaigner and spokesperson for women’s rights as a committee member of the Singapore Council of Women which was set up in 1952. It fought for women's economic, educational and social rights. These advocacy efforts led to the passing of the Women's Charter in 1961, which granted legal protection, such as a ban on polygamy, to women.
Checha was also heavily involved in the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), serving as its president for two stints from 1960 to 1964 and 1966 to 1968. She built up its network with YWCA branches in other countries during her frequent trips abroad. Her devotion to YWCA was such that she sold the house she had in Johor to raise the extra funds needed for the completion of the six-storey hostel on Fort Canning Road for low-income women and those travelling with young children.
In 1931 she founded Singapore's first Indian ladies' club - the Indian-Ceylonese Club. It was later renamed the Lotus Club, which then merged with the Ladies' Union to form the Kamala Club after World War 2. She was also a founder member of the Singapore Inner Wheel Club for Rotarians' wives, and was involved with the Samaritans of Singapore.
Checha was an active member of the Tamil Methodist Church, where she did beautiful floral arrangements every Sunday. She undertook many overseas lecture tours in Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, and the United States. Her love of travel saw her co-writing a book on India and Ceylon for use in the classroom.
Checha was a keen sportswoman and in her younger days was the only Indian woman in Singapore to be seen in shorts on the tennis courts. She continued practising yoga well into her 70s.
In recognition of her work, Checha received the Public Service Star in 1970.
Checha Davies passed away, aged 81, in 1979.
“She walked her talk and was an example of living a life of service till the end of her gracious life of just over eighty years.”
Family members recounting their memories of her.