Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah, the wife of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was born in 1926 in Kampung Jawa, Klang, Selangor. Tun Siti is the sixth child of ten siblings. Her father, Hj Mohd Ali, was a government officer while her mother, Hajah Siti Khatijah bt Ahmad, was a housewife. In her early years, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah received her education at Methodist Girls’ School, Kuala Lumpur. She then continued to attend St Mary’s School and later Pudu English School, where she obtained her School Certificate. After the Second World War, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah enrolled in King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore on a scholarship. She was the only Malay female student in the batch. That was the moment when she met Tun Dr Mahathir, who also enrolled in the same year; they struck a relationship which grew day by day. In 1955, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah graduated as a medical doctor and went to General Hospital Kuala Lumpur for her housemanship.
On 4th August 1956, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah married Tun Dr. Mahathir in Kuala Lumpur. After the wedding, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah moved to Alor Setar with Tun Dr. Mahathir and served as a medical officer at the Alor Setar General Hospital. Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah and Tun Dr. Mahathir have seven children – three girls and four boys, eighteen grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
During her service as a medical officer, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah was active in health campaigns organized by the Ministry of Health. She participated in health programs that were targeted to people of rural areas in ensuring their good health. Then in 1965, she became the first woman to be appointed Medical Officer in the Maternal and Child Health Department, and later in 1974, she was the first woman to be appointed the State Maternal and Child Health Officer. She also had written articles concerning family medicine and the socio-economic factors associated with pregnancy and childbearing in Malaysia.
Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah has served in various positions such as the President of the Malaysian Girl Guides Association, Chairman of the Kedah Family Planning Association, President of the Malaysian Medical Association Foundation, President of the Association for the Rehabilitation of Handicapped Children, Vice President of the Federation of Family Planning Associations of Malaysia, Patron of the Malaysian Association of Maternal Health and Neonate and Patron of the Malaysian Pediatric Association.
Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah succeeded Tun Suhailah and became the president of BAKTI (Welfare Club of the Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers) and was active in her efforts to educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse. In 1985, at the invitation of First Lady Nancy Reagan, she attended the First Ladies' Conference on Drug Abuse in Washington, D C. She also represented Malaysia at the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Vienna in 1987.
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah has received numerous honours and awards as appreciation for her unceasing effort and initiatives in the fields of public health, literacy and drug abuse control. His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Ruler of Malaysia) as well as Their Royal Highnesses the Sultan of Selangor and the Sultan of Kedah and Their Excellencies the Governors of the States of Sabah, Sarawak, Pulau Pinang and Melaka have bestowed titles upon her.
On 31st October 2003, Dr Siti Hasmah was awarded the distinguished Federal Award of Seri Setia Mahkota Malaysia (SSM) which carries the title of Tun together with the Prime Minister who was awarded the SMN (Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara) on his retirement. This is the first time the wife of a Prime Minister of Malaysia was awarded the Tun-ship by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Ruler of Malaysia).
Apart from that, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah has received Honorary Doctorates from overseas institutions such as from University of Indiana, USA, University of Victoria, Canada and from the Royal College of Physician in Dublin, Ireland and University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In Malaysia, Dr Siti Hasmah received Honorary Doctorate from UKM, UM, USM, IMU, UniMas, UiTM, UIAM, UUM, UMS and UPSI from 1991 until 2004 in various fields of Medicines and Education. In 1998, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah received the Kazue McLaren Award by the Asia Pacific Consortium for Public Health. From 1997 to 2012, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah was the Chancellor of Multimedia University in Cyberjaya.
As someone who has an interest in mental health, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah was invited by the former First Lady Rosalynn Carter to participate in the National Committee of the World Federation of Mental Health. Tun Dr. Siti was also the Patron of the Pan Pacific South East Asia Women’s Association (PESAWA) Malaysia and has attended and delivered keynote addresses at the Triennial Conferences in Tokyo (1984), Bangkok (1991) and Tonga (1994). She hosted the 20th Triennial Conference in Kuala Lumpur in August 1997. Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah led the Malaysian delegation to the United Nation Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing where she spoke on "Equality, Development and Peace: A Caring World" in September 1995.
Being a medical officer, then the wife of the Prime Minister for 22 years, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah has gracefully managed a busy and demanding life. After her husband stepped down as Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah continued her role in giving support and accompanying her husband on his work.