Yesterday, Dec. 5, Jayalalithaa Jayaraman, chief minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, and one of the earliest feminist influences in my life, passed away. She was an iconic actress, a writer extraordinaire and an adroit politician, and her life deserves to be celebrated.

I want to write about her for myself, and for girls like me who grew up during the Jayalalithaa era. When I was 11 years old, I remember seeing a photograph of her — a powerful woman surrounded by a sea of men — and it had a profound impact on my life.

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