‘Helen Keller of Southeast Asia’ to be inducted to Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame

Dubbed the ‘Helen Keller of Southeast Asia’, Theresa Chan Poh Lin won the hearts of many in the 1960s and 1970s with her cheerful optimism and determination to not be handicapped by her deafness and blindness.

She was almost illiterate when, as a teenager, she got the chance to go to the School for the Blind in Singapore. Theresa rapidly learnt Braille and fingerspelling, and did so well that she was admitted to the Perkins School in the United States. When she returned to Singapore she became a teacher at the School for the Blind.

Theresa’s progress was followed closely by many during the 1960s and 1970s, with considerable media coverage both in Singapore and abroad. She was the subject of a 1964 radio documentary and a critically acclaimed movie in 2005. Interviewed shortly before she died in 2016, she said: “I hope people will remember me, and remember that whatever their disabilities, they should have hope and not be unhappy and discouraged.”

Theresa’s inspiring story will now be captured for posterity in the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame. On 24th March, she will be among the seven women to be honoured at the 4th Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF) gala dinner and induction ceremony.

The other six women are:

  • Wedding gown designer and entrepreneur Sylvia Kho
  • Animal rights activist Marjorie Doggett
  • Broadcast media pioneers Wong-Lee Siok Tin and Aisha Akbar
  • Entertainers Anita Sarawak and Rahimah Rahim.

They will join the 133 women already in the Hall of Fame. The SWHF was launched by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations in 2014 to recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women in Singapore. A key aim is to share their stories so as to inspire others, especially young Singaporeans, to dare to dream and to chart their own path.

In his foreword in the 2017 SWHF book, Professor Tommy Koh, chair of the Selection Committee, says: “We are sometimes asked if there is a danger we will run out of candidates for consideration. My answer is an emphatic no. Many women have played, are now playing, and will in the future continue to play, vital roles in Singapore’s progress and development. There will never be a shortage of inspiring women for induction to the Hall of Fame.”

At the gala dinner on 24th March at the Shangri-La Hotel, SCWO patron Mrs Mary Tan will present each of the seven women, or their representative, with The Flame, a trophy that symbolises the vitality of the women in the Hall of Fame and the torch of inspiration that is passed from one generation to another.

Guests at the event will include Hall of Famers, women parliamentarians, foreign diplomats, senior civil servants, and representatives of SCWO’s member organisations. The SWHF gala dinner and induction ceremony is held every March to mark International Women’s Day.

Click here for short profiles of the seven women.



About the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (www.swhf.sg)


The Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame was launched on 14th March 2014 with 108 Inaugural honourees. Their achievements spanned two centuries and 13 fields of endeavour, ranging from the philanthropy of 19th century businesswoman Hajjah Fatimah Sulaiman to the sporting prowess of Singapore’s women Olympians and Paralympians in the 21st century. The aim of the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame is to recognise and celebrate the many contributions of women to Singapore’s development. Information about the inductees and the selection process is available at the SWHF website – www.swhf.sg For the second year running, Citi is the Presenting Sponsor for the SWHF. The banking organisation has made a three-year commitment to supporting the SWHF. 


About SCWO

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) is the National Coordinating body of women’s organisations in Singapore. Our 57 member organisations represent more than 500,000 women in Singapore. Incorporated in March 1980, the SCWO serves to unite the various organisations, clubs, committees, groups and women leaders together working in accordance with its various aims and objectives. The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations seeks to coordinate these associations into a national movement and to act on their behalf in matters for which it is authorised by its members. It seeks to promote the ideals of “Equal Space, Equal Voice and Equal Worth” for women in Singapore.

Selina Gan, General Manager
Tel: (O) 6571 0181 (M) 9679 5594
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SCWO Centre, 96 Waterloo Street, Singapore 187967 | Tel: 6837 0611 | Fax: 6837 0081 | www.scwo.org.sg

  • Ivy Singh-Lim
  • Khatijun Nissa Siraj
  • Neila Sathyalingam
  • Som Said
  • Theresa Goh
  • Teresa Hsu
  • Euleen Goh
  • Tan Yoon Yin