Zoroastrian women are spirited and plucky, an old-fashioned word for courageous and determined, which sums them up perfectly. Their achievements have been the breaking of new boundaries for all of us.They campaigned with the Suffragettes and were at the heart of independence movements, like the fiery Indian revolutionary, Madame Bhikiji Cama, and Frene Ginwala, the courageous veteran of the African National Congress, who became the first woman Speaker of the post-apartheid South African National Assembly.

Zoroastrian women were among the first to be admitted to higher education and the professions. Avabai Wadia founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation and used her legal  skills to lead the campaign for the right to birth control. Today Maja Daruwala heads the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Shireen Irani has founded the i-ProBono legal website.

Professor Zenobia Nadirshaw, the clinical psychologist, is one of many outstanding women academics recognised as leaders in their fields. Others champion the cause of the oppressed and those with disabilities, women like Dhun Adenwalla who has devoted her life to those with hearing impediments.

They have also been media pioneers. Homai Vyarawalla was India’s first woman photojournalist. Coomi Kapoor edited Indian Express and was president of the Indian Women’s Press Corps. Dina Vakil became the first woman editor of The Times of India, the largest circulating English language paper in the world. Bachi

Karkaria was the first Indian on the Board of the World Editors Forum and is renowned for her fearless writing and AIDS campaigns. Meher Moos, the food and society columnist, has explored from the Poles to the Equator, lived with pygmies and eaten crocodile!

Zoroastrian women have taken their place in every sphere of life with dignity and style. Their pioneering spirit and relentless striving after excellence have guaranteed our freedoms.

Zerbanoo’s paternal grandmother, Gover Irani, left Iran with her family as a child refugee. Married at fourteen, she had twelve children and was widowed in her thirties. She taught Zerbanoo her Zoroastrian prayers and the need to live a good life, all while touring on a Greyhound bus in America in the early 1950s. She instilled in her granddaughter a revulsion for racial prejudice as they witnessed the harsh realities of segregation in the southern states. She also

told Zerbanoo how fortunate she was to be alive in our modern times. Now, as a woman, Zerbanoo could educate herself and create a fulfilling life. It was strong, kind women like Gover who made this possible for the new generation.We need to honour and remember them.

Freddie Mercury (1946 – 1991)

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, rock legend and lead singer of Queen, continues to be voted one of

the greatest singers in the history of popular music. During the millennium celebrations, his song We are the Champions was voted the most popular song of all time. Queen’s Greatest Hits is the highest selling album of all time in the UK, outselling even the Beatles.

Mercury was ranked 58 in the BBC list of 100 Greatest Britons broadcast by the BBC, and in Japan he was voted the 52nd most influential hero of the world.

Mercury’s death from AIDS was a turning point in the history of the disease. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness was broadcast live to 76 countries and had an estimated audience of one billion people.

Pheroza Godrej (1948 –)

Pheroza Godrej is the art historian and founder of the Cymroza Art Gallery, which brought contemporary Indian art to the world stage. An active conservationist, and President of the National Society of the Friends of the Trees, she is the author of A Zoroastrian Tapestry – Art, Religion and Culture, the definitive book on Zoroastrianism, its people and heritage.

Roshan Sadri (1927 – 2003)

Roshan Sadri was a philanthropist and patron of the arts, known for her zest for life. She was associated with numerous charities, in particular, the Star and Garter Trust and the British Forces Appeal. With her husband, Erach, she set up the Sadri Foundation, which has been instrumental in changing many lives for the better.

Mithan Tata (1895 – 1981)

Mithan Tata was the first Indian woman to qualify as a barrister and to be called to Lincoln’s Inn. She practised at the Bombay High Court and was Professor of Social Legislation. Under her married name, Mithan Lam, she held many important appointments, including being the Indian delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 1957.

Bhikiji Cama (1861 – 1936)

Bhikiji Cama holds a unique position in India’s freedom struggle. At the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart in 1907 she made history by unfurling the Indian flag of independence for the first time. Her dignity and dedication to see India free singled her out as the Mother of Indian Revolution. Today her portrait hangs inthe Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha.

Coomi Kapoor (1946 –)

Coomi Kapoor was the president of the Indian Women’s Press Corps and responsible for shaping contemporary journalism in India. Her career started as a reporter for Motherland, and she went on to be Chief Reporter for the Indian Express newspaper. After working at India Today, The Sunday Mail, The Indian Post, and Illustrated Weekly, Coomi returned to The Indian Express as the resident editor. She has also been a stringer for The Times, London and a columnist for The Star in Malaysia.

Zenobia Nadirshaw (1950 –)

Dr Zenobia Nadirshaw is Professor at Thames Valley University, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences. She has received many awards for her work in clinical psychology, and the way that medical and psychological services are delivered to minority communities in Britain. Zenobia is a governor of London Metropolitan University and a former governor of the Women’s Library, London.

Sooni Taraporevala (1957 –)

Sooni Taraporevala, the acclaimed screenwriter and photographer, is best known for her screenplays, Mississippi Masala, Such a Long Journey, and the Oscar-nominated, Salaam Bombay. Her compelling photographs have been exhibited internationally, including the Tate Modern, London. Sooni’s book, Parsis: the Zoroastrians of India – A Photographic Journey, offers rare photos, as well as historical and personal essays on the Zoroastrian religion and Parsi social history. She has kindly allowed some of her photos to be used in this exhibition.

Frene Ginwala (1932 –)

Frene Ginwala is a veteran of the ANC struggle against apartheid. She was the first woman Speaker of the democratically elected National Assembly of South Africa from 1994 to 2004. Under apartheid Frene smuggled the ANC deputy president, Oliver Tambo, out of South Africa. While in exile in Tanzania, Frene established and edited the journal, Spearhead. Later she made her home in Britain where she ran the ANC office. She was awarded theNorth South Prize for her outstanding achievements in the field of humanrights and was the first Chancellor of theUniversity of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Maja Daruwala (1945 –)

Maja Daruwala heads the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and was the founder and chair of the human rights organisation, People’s Watch. She has received numerous awards for her work promoting issues of accountability, police reform and the right to information. Maja is the daughter of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.

Avabai Wadia (1913 – 2005)

Avabai Wadia was born in Sri Lanka and qualified as a barrister in London. She founded and was the President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which was the first nongovernmental organisation to be awarded the UN Population Award in


Homai Vyarawalla (1913 – 2012)

Homai Vyarawalla was India’s first woman photojournalist, renowned for her photographs of Gandhi, Nehru and India’s freedom struggle. She was a stringer for Time Life magazine and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s the second highest civilian award.

Aban Marker Kabraji (1953 –)

Aban Marker is the Asia Regional Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. She holds the Order of the Golden Ark from the Netherlands and is a McCluskey Fellow at Yale University. Aban is known for her work on conservation strategies, and security and conflict prevention.

Bachi Karkaria (1945 –)

Bachi Karkaria was the first Indian on the board of the World Editors Forum and served as resident editor of the Times of India. She is a household name in India for her satirical column, Erratica, and regular appearances as a commentator on current affairs. An early campaigner on AIDS, she is on the advisory body of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dhun Adenwalla (1927 –)

Dhun Adenwalla founded the Oral School for Deaf Children in Kolkata as a positive response after her eldest daughter, Dinaz, was born deaf. Working in English, the School is open to children from all socio-economic backgrounds and free to those unable to pay. In order to make the public aware of deafness, the School stages annual shows in Mime and Sign Language, with the professional Theatre of the Deaf.

Shernaaz Engineer (1967 –)

Shernaaz Engineer is the editor of thenewspaper, JameJamshed. She has been a journalist, editor of numerous fashion and lifestyle magazines and written several books, the latest on the Sindhi community of India.

Zerbanoo Gifford (1950 –)

Zerbanoo Gifford is an author, human rights campaigner, and the founder of the ASHA Centre. She has been described as one of the rare dynamic women who alter the lives of communities wherever they’ve lived. A pioneer for Asian women in British politics, she has received numerous awards around the world for her humanitarian work, combating modern slavery and championing the rights of women, children and minorities.

Bapsi Sidhwa (1938 –)

Bapsi Sidhwa is an award-winning novelist, best known for her work with the Indo-Canadian filmmaker, Deepa Mehta. Bapsi’s novel, Ice Candy Man, served as the basis for Mehta’s 1998 film Earth. Bapsi was on the advisory committee to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, on Women’s Development, and has lectured at several American universities.

Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal (1944 –)

Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal has worked in film and theatre as an actress and director. She brought The Vagina Monologues to India in 2003, which raised funds for shelters for abused women in the slums of Mumbai.

Rashna Writer (1949 –)

Dr Rashna Writer is the Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Study of Religions, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University, where she lectures on Zoroastrianism in Ancient and Modern Worlds. She is also an award-winning political analyst, specialising in advising insurance underwriters and multi-national corporations on war and terrorism risks. She is a sought-after media commentator.

Meher Master Moos (1943 –)

Meher Master Moos was the youngest professor of law in Canada and was awarded the prestigious UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjoeld Award and the Albert Schweitzer Medal for humanitarian work. She also received the medal for Inter Faith Peace from His Holiness Pope John Paul II. She is the founder of the Zoroastrian College in India and a prolific writer.

Meher Banaji (1943 –)

Meher Banaji is the Principal of the Happy Home and School for the Blind in Mumbai. She received the President’s Award for her dedicate work with the Home’s 200 children and young people, ranging from the age of three to twenty.

Nelly Sethna (1932 – 1992)

Nelly Sethna was a weaver of worldwide renown, whose murals and wall hangings have been used in numerous international buildings and Air India’s Boeing 747. Despite being confined to a wheelchair she continued to weave and travel with her husband, Homi Sethna, the documentary filmmaker.

Toxy Cowasjee (1939 –)

Toxy Cowasjee is the acclaimed editor of Hamazor and the author of several books, including the cookbook, Manna of the Angels. A crusader for the underprivileged, whether Afghan refugees, victims of floods and earthquakes, or farmers suffering drought, Toxy is admired for her selfless campaigns.

Dina Vakil (1946 –)

Dina Vakil was the first woman to be appointed resident editor of the Times of India, the largest circulating English language paper in the world. She was previously the editor of The Independent, Mumbai, and prior to that, executive editor of The Indian Post, a national daily.

Katy Mirza (1948 –)

Katy Mirza was the first Asian bunny-girl and was offered a photographic career by The Sun newspaper on arriving in London, escaping from the conflict in her home in Aden. She became a Bollywood actress, as well as starring in the soap opera Crossroads. Today she is an award-winning interior designer.

Rati Jinnah (1900 – 1929)

Rati Jinnah was known as the Flower of Bombay because of her beauty and

vitality. She was the only daughter of Sir Dinshaw Petit, the textile magnate. She married Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and their only child, Dina, married Neville Wadia, the heir to the Wadia dynasty.

Roshan Rivetna (1939 –)

Roshan Rivetna is a nuclear physicist and computer engineer. She was the editor of FEZANA Journal from 1991 – 2005, and, together with her husband, Rohinton, is the leading light in the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America.

Aban Pestonjee (1936 –)

Aban Pestonjee is one of the leading women entrepreneurs in the world. She is the founder of the Aban Group in Sri Lanka, the largest home and office supplier, employing over 12,000 people. Aban realised her dream of making life easier for housewives by making the latest household appliances available at affordable prices.

Villoo Morawala-Patell (1955 –)

Villoo Morawala-Patell is an academic entrepreneur who founded Avesthagen, a leading systems biology company focusing on the convergence of food, pharma and population genetics. She is the holder of numerous awards for her work on affordable healthcare and food security and is renowned for her business acumen.

Cornelia Sorabji (1866 – 1954)

Cornelia Sorabji was the first woman graduate from Bombay University, and the first woman in the world to read law at Oxford. She dedicated her life to working for the rights of women who lived in purdah and orphans. She campaigned to reform the laws on child marriages and the position of widows.

Shernaz Engineer (1952 –)

Shernaz Engineer founded the Verity Group which provides secretary, legal staff and IT placements. Her multimillion pound business is a by-word in the recruitment industry for its reputation for honesty, speed of service and complete reliability.

Amy Rustomjee (1896 – unknown)

Amy Rustomjee was among the first Indians to study at Cambridge University, going on to become one of India’s top educationalists. A member of the All India Radio ‘brains trust’, she has had halls and scholarships named after her.

Kyra Shroff (1992 –)

Kyra Shroff is an all-round sportswoman, taking part in basketball, football and cricket, winning the All India Karate Championship gold medal, and various athletics competitions. But her true forte is tennis. She has won several junior championships and was awarded numerous accolades for her sporting prowess.

Jeroo Roy (1941 –)

Jeroo Roy is an artist who is known for her paintings portraying violence against women and children. Her work has been displayed at venues as diverse as New Scotland Yard, Amnesty International and various international art galleries. Jeroo teaches art at the ASHA Centre as a means of self-expression to young people from conflict zones. Jeroo painted 250 portraits of the women featured in Zerbanoo’s Gifford’s book: Confessions to a serial womaniser: Secrets of the World’s Inspirational Women, which were displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Meher Moos (1944 –)

Meher Moos is known as India’s intrepid traveller. She joined Air India in 1965 as an air hostess and retired in 2002 as a Senior Executive Officer. She has explored more than 150 countries, from the Poles to the Equator. In 1981 she embarked on a five-month solitary exploration of over 35 countries in Africa, bent on discovering forbidden and inaccessible interiors, marching across the Sahara to Timbuktu and learning to live with pygmies. She is now an International Travel Consultant with Thomas Cook and a popular food and society columnist.

Kitty Irani (1924 –)

Kitty Irani is the daughter of Khan Bhadur Shapoor and Jerbai Mazda and was born and brought up in Kolkata. She was one of the last pupils of the child educationalists, Madame Montessori. Kitty came to London with her husband, Bailey, in the early 1950s and is the adored mother to Zerbanoo, Genie, Rustom and Naswan, a loved grandmother of Mark, Alex, George, Serene, Thomas and Caspar, and greatgrandmother to William Makepeace Gifford.

Gool (dates unknown)

Gool was Zerbanoo’s great-grandmother. She was over six feet tall and the mother of seven boys, and one daughter who died at birth. Four of her sons emigrated to India and three stayed in Iran. Her eldest son endowed one of the largest hospitals in Teheran, and her second son, Shapoor, Zerbanoo’s maternal grandfather, walked to India to start a new life for himself, where he created a business empire.

Indian Suffragettes (1911)

The unnamed Parsi Suffragette, first on the left campaigning for women’s right to vote, is part of a group of Indian Suffragettes on the Women’s Coronation Procession. The Indian contingent was organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union, the WSPU, whose representatives contacted Indian women living in the UK. The India procession was part of the ‘Imperial Contingent’ and was intended to show the strength of support for women’s suffrage throughout the Empire.

Dolly Dastoor (1939 –)

Dolly Dastoor is a professor and clinical psychologist in the field of aging and specialises in the assessment of dementia. Founder President of the Alzheimer Society, Montreal, Dolly is renowned for developing an assessment tool for the prognosis of Alzheimer’s. She is the President of Zonta International, Montreal Club, and has served on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, in Vienna. As the President of Fezana, the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, Dolly co-chaired the 7th World Zoroastrian Congress, in 2000 in Houston.

Tanya Dubash (1968 –)

Tanya Dubash is on the board of several Godrej Group companies and is the head of the Strategic Marketing Group. She also heads Corporate Communications and Media and oversees Godrej Nature’s Basket, a gourmet food retailing chain. She is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and a Trustee of Brown University where she read Economics and Political Science.

Nisaba Godrej (1978 –)

Nisa Godrej, the younger sister of Tanya, is the President of Human Capital and Innovation for Godrej Industries and associate companies. She is written about as one of the rising young women stars of the international business world.

Farangis Shahrokh (1916 – 2010)

Farangis Shahrokh was a voice for the women of Iran. She lobbied for the welfare of women in prison and formed a supervisory body to ensure that they were not ill-treated. She established a clinic, nursery school and orphanage in Hamadan. Farangis also founded the Sazeman-e-Sanaye-Dastie- Irani, the Iranian Handicraft Organisation, which today is one of the most profitable

organisations in Iran. Farangis set up 32 co-operatives for the technical training of artisans to improve the quality and marketing of Iranian handicrafts, which is Iran’s second largest export after oil.

Anu Aga (1942 –)

Anu Aga was the chair of Thermax Industries and the first woman chair of the Confederation of Indian Industries Western Region. Anu is involved in education, especially for underprivileged children, and is known for her work in corporate governance and social responsibility.

Meher Pudumjee (1966 –)

Meher Pudumjee is the chair of Thermax, taking over from her mother, Anu Aga, in 2004. She has a post graduate degree in chemical engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London and joined Thermax in 1990 as a trainee engineer. She is also a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Family Business Forum.

Gover Irani (1892 – 1984) Gover Irani was Zerbanoo’s paternal grandmother. She arrived in India from Iran as a child refugee having lost her father on the boat crossing. She was the mother of twelve children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. All of them had extraordinary lives, including her son, Bailey, Zerbanoo’s father. She played a key role in bringing up Zerbanoo, who dedicated her first book, The Golden Thread: Asian Experiences of Post-Raj Britain, to her.

Thrity Engineer (1942 –)

Thrity Engineer is a college drop-out, serial pioneer, searcher and lover of the extraordinary, the exquisite and theexceptional. She qualified as India’s first woman gemmologist. She is the founder of 3S (Subtle Sacred Scientific), the author of Supercoherence – The 7th Sense, and the creator of The Supercoherence Programme, and works with the Luminator, the extraordinary real life ‘Star Trek’ technology of superconsciousness.

Homai Daruwalla (1948 –)

Homai Daruwalla was the chair and managing director of the Central Bank of India. Under her leadership the Bank underwent a steep growth of 110 per cent in total business from 2005 to 2008. Homai was also the deputy chair of the Indian Bankers’ Association.

Smita Crishna (1950 –)

Smita Crishna, seen here with President Jimmy Carter, is the Co-Founder of the Association for Inter-married Zoroastrians, which safeguards the rights of Zoroastrian women who married outside the community. An educationalist, she is actively involved with the Udayachal Schools at Vikhroli, Mumbai, and is the Chair of the conservation organisation, the Heritage Mile Association.

Bapsybanoo Pavry, Marchioness of Winchester (1902 – 1985)

Bapsybanoo Pavry was the daughter of the Parsi High Priest in Bombay. She was one of the first women to study at Columbia University in New York, and one of the first Parsi debutantes to be presented at Court. She was singled out for her beauty, and sat for Sargent, the leading portrait painter of his generation. A delegate at the UNESCO Paris Peace Conference in 1947, she was a member of council of the World Alliance for International Peace through Religion. She endowed two fellowships for the study of international relations and human rights at Oxford University in memory of her brother, Dr Zal Pavry. On her death she made an endowment of more than a million pounds for the people of Winchester, with the proviso that her portrait would hang in perpetuity in the Town Hall to mark her marriage to the Marquess of Winchester.

Shireen Irani (1981 –)

Shireen Irani qualified as a solicitor at Field Fisher Waterhouse, then set up i- ProBono – a website connecting civil society organisations in need of pro bono assistance with lawyers and students who want to contribute to the public good. Shireen has also worked with the human rights attorney, Judith Chomsky, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. Shireen’s research has been key to several corporate human rights abuse cases establishing ‘aiding and abetting’ as an offence under international law.