Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) was born in Allahabad, India into the politically prominent Nehru family. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, served as India’s first prime minister.
A stubborn and highly intelligent young woman, she enjoyed an excellent education in Swiss schools and at Somerville College, Oxford. After her mother died, in 1936, Indira became something of her father’s hostess, learning to navigate complex relationships of diplomacy with some of the great leaders of the world.
She was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1960. After her father’s death, Gandhi was appointed minister of information and broadcasting. When her father’s successor died abruptly in 1966, India’s congress appointed her to the post of prime minister.
She surprised her father’s old colleagues when she led with a strong hand, sacking some of highest-ranking officials. Gandhi subsequently brought about great change in agricultural programs that improved the lot of her country’s poor. For a time, she was hailed as a hero.
Gandhi also led a movement that became known as the Green Revolution. In an effort to address the chronic food shortages that mainly affected the extremely poor Sikh farmers of the Punjab region, Gandhi decided to increase crop diversification and food exports as a way out of the problem, creating new jobs as well as food for her countrymen
Indira Gandhi served three consecutive terms as prime minister, between 1966 and 1977, and another term beginning in 1980.