She served for a time as a Union Minister. She was minister from 2002 to 2004, holding the portfolios for Human Resources, Communications and Petroleum. She is the eldest and seniormost among woman Members of Parliament in the 16th Lok Sabha. She is the second woman after Meira Kumar to be elected as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. An active parliamentarian, she not only headed important committees, but has also been a keen debater and avid questioner in the house.
Sumitra Mahajan was born in a Chitpavan Brahmin family to Usha and Purushotam Sathe in Chiplun, Maharashtra. She received her MA and LLB from Indore University (now Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya) after marrying Jayant Mahajan of Indore. Sumitra Mahajan's hobbies include reading, music, drama and cinema as well as an enthusiasm for singh. She has acknowledged the 18th century social reformer Ahilyabai Holkar as the inspirational figure throughout her life.