Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Shyamala Gopalan, the mother of Kamala Harris, addresses the crowd at the kickoff of her daughterÕs campaign for San Francisco district attorney. (Courtesy of Kamala Harris)

Kamala Harris who is running for the presidency against Donald Trump in 2020 will be the first Indian American woman president of the United States if she is elected. Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California to two ambitious graduate students—both immigrants: Shayamala Gopalan and Donald Harris.

Shyama Gopalan and Donald Harris had two daughter; Maya Harris and Kamala Harris.
Shyama Gopalan and Donald Harris had two daughter; Maya Harris and Kamala Harris.

Shyamala Gopalan was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu to Rajam and P.V. Gopalan who was a diplomat of the Indian Government.She had a culturally enriching childhood with music, art, and travel. Gopalan had two sisters and a brother. As a child, Gopalan won a national gold medal for singing classical Indian music.

Also See: Douglas Emhoff is Kamala Harris’s husband

She graduated with a undergraduate degree from the University of Delhi in the age of 19 and then went on to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in nutrition and Endocrinology from the University of California, Berkeley at the age of 25.

Shyamala was supposed to complete her studies and then return to India for an arranged marriage, but instead, she became active in the American civil rights movement. There she met Donald Harris, a Jamaican native who also came to the United States as a young adult to pursue doctoral work at Berkeley in economics. Shyamala ended up marrying Donald and stayed in the U.S. She had a love marriage outside her Brahmin caste—and outside her culture entirely.

Kamala HarrisÕ parents, Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris, immigrants from India and Jamaica, in an undated portrait.
Kamala Harris’ parents, Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris, immigrants from India and Jamaica, in an undated portrait.

Shyamala Gopalan had two daughters; Kamala Harris and lawyer Maya Harris. Kamala Harris was born on October 20, 1964. She insisted on giving her daughters names derived from Indian mythology to help preserve their cultural identity.

Also See: Unseen pictures of Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff

Kamala Harris is happily married to husband Douglas Emhoff.
Kamala Harris is happily married to husband Douglas Emhoff.

Gopalan separated from Donald Harris when Kamala was 7 years old. Kamala Harris spent a lot of time of her childhood visiting her father in Jamaica. Along with that she also travelled to India with her mother and even Canada during her teenage years.

Shyamala Gopalan researched in the Cancer Research Lab in UC Berkeley’s Department of Zoology. She worked as a breast cancer researcher at the University of Illinios and Wisconsin. Gopalan’s research led to advancements in the knowledge of hormones pertaining to breast cancer.

A young Kamala Harris at her mother Shyamala's laboratory at UC Berkeley.
A young Kamala Harris at her mother Shyamala’s laboratory at UC Berkeley.

She died of cancer on February 11, 2009. Gopalan was survived by her daughters, mother, and three siblings.

Also See: Unseen childhood pictures of Kamala Harris

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