Tan Sri Dr. Devaki Krishnan has the distinction of accomplishing many firsts in Malaysian history – in particular regarding women. She was the first Malaysian woman to win the local elections of 1952. She was the first Indian woman to stand for general elections with an Alliance ticket in 1959. She is again the first Indian and non-Malay woman to be awarded the prestigious Tan Sri title by the King in 1995.
Born in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, she was educated at St. Mary's School, Kuala Lumpur. Upon leaving school, she became a teacher with the Diyal Kishan School.
In 1949, as an active member of the Selangor Indian Association, she has served as Chairman of the entertainment and social committee. Her role in the Women's International Club saw her raising funds for disaster victims.
It was in December 1951 that Devaki made her political inroads. She was then approached by the late Dato' Onn Jaafar to become a member of the Independent Malaya Party (IMP), thereby winning the Municipal Elections in 1952 and becoming the first woman in the country to be elected to public office. In 1955, she stood for a second term for the municipal council in Bangsar and won. She was paraded in an open top car, accompanied by over 50 cars along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Following the election, Devaki became a member of the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) which was then only a social and welfare association. In the 1959 state election, she contested for the Sentul Constituency under the Alliance ticket, but lost.
Devaki Krishnan is best known for having introduced pedestrian crossing for school children in Brickfields in the 1950's, as well as championing the involvement of women in the political scene. Wanita MIC was set up in 1975 and Devaki was appointed as its Secretary and later Deputy President in 1984 – a position which she held for 10 years. She also served as Vice President of the Selangor MIC and Chairman of the Selangor Wanita MIC. She became the first Chairman of the MIC marriage bureau which was set up in 1984.
Her role in the Civil Defence Corp where she underwent training in fire fighting welfare in 1993 is also more worthy. She was later made an instructor. The training she received paid off during the May 1969 riots when she took care of the riot victims and homeless, numbering around 3,500 at Stadium Merdeka. She was in charge of the Medical Clinic and continued serving there till all the victims had been taken care off and sent home.
Besides MIC, Devaki was a committee member of the Indian Welfare Society; the Family Planning Association of Selangor, the Pure Life Society and Chairman of the St. John's Ambulance. She served on the Social Welfare Committee of Kuala Lumpur for over 15 years and was a committee member of the Tengku Badriah Orphanage and the Serendah Boys Home. She is also a Juvenile Court Adviser.
As an Executive Council member of the NCWD, Devaki was also instrumental in the legislation of the Guardianship Act 1999. Beside the Tan Sriship, Devaki has also been conferred with a Gold Medal from the MIC for her long, meritorious service to the community and a meritorious service medal by the government for political work towards Merdeka. She was also a recipient of the Tokoh Wanita Award by NCWO; the Tan Sri Fatimah Award by AVON; the Tun Fatimah Ward by NCWO; the Service Sister St. Johns by Queen Elizabeth II and several other awards by the Malaysia Hindu Sangam. World Hindu Women Council; Sangeethalayam and many others from India.
Currently, she is Chairman of MIC Syed Putra branch, busy recruiting women members for the MIC. She was married to P.Krishnan, a businessman and is blessed with 3 children and 5 grandchildren.