Tribute to Mrs Seow Peck LengFounding President of Singapore Women's Association

Seow Peck Leng

SWA's Founder, the late Mrs Seow Peck Leng (neé Chua Seng Kim 17 September 1911 - 13 April 2007) was a politician, educator and advocate for women's rights. She was one of the first women members of parliament in Singapore and the only woman of an opposition party at the time.

Mrs Seow first went to Singapore Chinese Girls' School then Raffles Girls' School and started teaching in 1930. She was an active member with the Singapore Teacher's Union.

A confident and caring woman, she went on to join the Singapore Council of Women led by Shirin Fozdar in 1952. She became the principal of the Cantonment School in 1954 the same year, she founded the Siglap Girls' Club, to help underprivileged girls in Singapore. And in 1957, she expanded the mission of the club and renamed the group to Singapore Women's Association (Persatuan Wanita Singapura). She was President until 1991.

Mrs Seow was voted into Parliament as a candidate of Singapore People's Alliance (SPA) in 1959. She was the only opposition MP woman in Parliament at the time. Mrs Seow was able to work with members of the other party, the People's Action Party (PAP) to work towards gender equality. She was involved with helping to pass the Women's Charter, and the 1962 provision for equal pay for equal work in the civil service sector. She lost her seat in 1963 and retired from politics in 1965.

Mrs Seow Peck Leng then focus her efforts on charity work and devoted herself tirelessly to improving the lives of people – especially women. She cared deeply for women in the lower strata of society. She felt that the upper strata, who were aware of their rights and privileges, should be educated to become responsible citizens. During her time as an MP, she advocated the organization of centers that could advise the poor on where and how they could obtain help, as well as the formation of more youth clubs. She also campaigned for improving literacy rates amongst women, as well as for men to take a more active role in housework.

In 1975, she then focus her efforts on charity work. Mrs Seow promoted Miss Singapore World beauty pageant shows for charity and encourage women to help the less fortunate. In 1977, she was given a plaque of Life Patronage of the International Variety Club for raising the most charity funds. The Ministry of Social Affairs awarded her a Certificate of Appreciation for "valuable services rendered to others. And in 1977, Mrs Seow added another title, Miss Singapore International to beauty pageant.

Mrs Seow passed away on 13th April 2007. The strides that she made in fighting for the rights of women and people will forever live on.

Mrs Seow had left us a legacy. In 2005, she was honored on the Wall of Fame created by the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO). In 2014, she was added to the Singapore Memory Project and was inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame.