SINGAPORE'S first woman opposition politician died last Friday at her Keppel Bay home. She was 95.
Mrs Seow Peck Leng, known as Chua Seng Kim before her marriage, was among the first group of women to enter politics in Singapore's first General Election in 1959.
Five of them - four from the People's Action Party, and Mrs Seow, from the opposition Singapore People's Alliance - were elected into the Legislative Assembly that year.
The mother of three boys became the MP for Mountbatten, at age 47.
Said her son Paul, 73, yesterday: 'Many people see her as a politician, but she was apolitic. Her cause was the welfare of women.'
Since Saturday, a steady stream of people - including Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Yu-Foo Yee Shoon as well as long-time friends from her uber-active days of social and community work - visited her son's Siglap Plain residence, where her body lay, to say goodbye to the grand dame.
At the tranquil and prayerful evening service, many praised her wisdom and foresight, especially when it came to women's issues.
Born on September 17, 1911 into a Peranakan family, her mother died when she was about three years old. Her father, busy with his car rental business, placed her with a widowed aunt.
Said her son Paul's older twin, Peter: 'Raised by women, that experience shaped her outlook and understanding of the world of women, their position in the household, the challenges they faced.'
She studied at the Singapore Chinese Girls' School and Raffles Girls' School. In 1930, she became a teacher and rose to be principal of the former Cantonment School in 1954.
Around that time, she began championing women's rights, especially being paid the same wages as men.
Her efforts, and that of pioneering PAP women politicians, met with success when the Women's Charter Bill, to protect and safeguard the rights of women, was passed in 1961.
In 1962, the Government instituted the principle of equal pay for equal work in the civil service.
But the year after, in 1963, Mrs Seow lost her seat in the General Election and, two years later, she retired from politics, to focus on social and community work.
Besides being a founding member of the Singapore Women's Association (SWA),she also became an organiser of beauty contests. She used them to raise funds for charity, while ensuring they did not become flesh parades but ways to promote the image of Singapore women.
Her long-time friend and SWA past president Susy Chia-Tsai, 69, called her a visionary who started several projects that benefitedwomen and their families.
'After the Bukit Ho Swee fire, she started a programme to encourage women to put their savings in a bank account for safekeeping rather than in their kampung homes.
'The former Chung Khiaw Bank, even had a staff member, dressed in pink, called 'The Pink Lady', to help illiterate women fill up the forms,' said Mrs Chia-Tsai.
Mrs Seow, whose husband died a decade ago, leaves behind three sons, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The cortege leaves today at 3.30pm from Siglap Plain, for Mandai Crematorium Hall 2 for cremation at 4.30pm.
WOMEN HER CONCERN
'Many people see her as a politician, but she was apolitic. Her cause was the welfare of women.'
YOUNGER TWIN SON PAUL
BEHIND SEVERAL PROJECTS
'After the Bukit Ho Swee fire, she started a programme to encourage women to put their savings in a bank account for safekeeping rather than in their kampung homes.'
LONG-TIME FRIEND SUSY CHIA-TSAI, 69, calling her a visionary who started several projects in her lifetime that benefited women and their families
LOVED BY MANY
'She was in a wheelchair, but she went onstage anyway to express her thoughts. What was touching was how people came up to her and applauded her.'
MRS SEOW'S OLDER TWIN SON PETER, 73, referring to her presence at the convention of the Federation of Asia-Pacific Women's Association in 2004
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