Puan Sri Datin Hajah Puteh Mariah was the first woman politician to fight for independence. She was born on 20 December 1914 in Kuala Kurau, Perak. Puan Sri Datin Hajah Puteh Mariah received her early education at the Malay and English schools. During the outbreak of the Second World War, she could no longer pursue her studies. She married Tan Sri Datuk Zainal Abidin bin Abas at the age of 16.
Puan Sri Datin Hajah Puteh Mariah her involvement in politics by becoming a member of Perikatan Melayu Perak (the Perak Malay Alliance) and representing the organisation to the First Malay Congress which led to the establishment of UMNO at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, Kuala Lumpur in 1946. As the women representative in the congress, she was appointed by Perikatan Melayu Perak as the officer in charge of safeguarding women affairs, or better known as the UMNO Women's Wing apart from encouraging more women to be a members of UMNO. After UMNO was established, Puan Sri Datin Hajah Puteh Mariah was appointed as a representative of UMNO in the Constitution Working Committee in 1947. This committee was responsible for the preparation of the Federation of Malaya Agreement. Her involvement in politics became even more serious when she was appointed as a Member of the Legislative Council and the Federal Standing Committee on Finance from 1948 to 1955. Apart from being engaged with the Federation, she was also a member of the Perak State Legislative Assembly in 1948-1949. In 1948, she was also appointed as the first Chairperson of of the UMNO Women's Wing of Malaya.
Her involvement in UMNO came to halt when the late Datuk Onn Jaafar set up Parti Negara. She also joined Parti Negara and in 1955, she was appointed as the Secretary General of Parti Negara until 1956. Between 1958 and 1960, she was appointed as the Party's Permanent Chairperson. The late Puan Sri Hajah Puteh Mariah spent a considerable amount of time carrying out charitable activities with several voluntary organisations. Most of her time was spent serving the community. Among the committees she participated in were:
1. Citizen's Advisory Bureau in Ipoh between 1945-1947
2. Welfare Committee of the Special Police Force from 1948 to 1949 in Kuala Kubu Bharu and became its Chairperson.
3. President of the Girls' Guide Association of Malaya from 1957 to 1963 replacing Lady MacGillivray. She was the first native to hold the position.
4. Central Welfare Council from 1948 to 1962.
a) 1958 - represented the council to Tokyo, for the International Welfare Council Meeting.
b) 1961 - to Rome, Italy, and appointed to the Executive Council.
c) 1960 - 1962 - became the Vice Chairperson.
5. Selangor State Welfare Committee, Member for 1950-1953, became the president from 1953 until she left in 1956.
6. Committee of the Adult Education Association of Malaya from 1950 to 1973.
7. Selangor Adult Education Committee 1951-1973 years.
8. Association for the Blind Malaysia - she was one of the founders, Councillor and Member of Executive Committee 1952-1958.
a) Member of the Sub-Committee for Prevention of Blindness Society in the same years (1952-1958).
b) Chairperson of the Sub-Committee for the Welfare Association for the Blind Malaya from 1952-1958.
9. Councillor and Member of Executive Committee for Women Society in 1952.
10. Children Welfare Council of Malaysia - One of the founders and the Vice President for 1962-1975.
11. Federation of Malaya Muslim Women's Welfare Board - One of the Society's founders, established in 1961 and became Vice-President.
(a) 1976 to 1981 - represented the Muslim Women Welfare Board at the National Advisory Council on Integration of Women in Development (NACIWID).
(b) 1975 - Chairperson and organiser of the first Muktamar (Congress) organised by the Board.
(c) 1977 - Chairperson to the second Muktamar (Congress) organised by the Board.
12. Citizen's Welfare Council of Malaya
a) In 1964, Representative of the Muslim Women's Welfare Board to the conference.
b) The Vice-Chairman of the Social Welfare Council in 1968.
13. Handicapped and Disabled Children Association of Selangor:
a) Member of the Working Committee from 1965-1966.
14. Legal Aid Bureau - member for 1971-1972.
15. Al-Quran Recitation Competition Committee, Federal Territory from 1972 to 1984.
16. Member of University of Malaya from 1975 to 1984.
Historical Narration Series Personage - Women In The History of Malaysia
24 July 1984
National Archives of Malaysia