"My mother was very influential to me," Chutikul said. "Double standards, separation, gender inequality were issues my mother was concerned about. So I believe that got into me gradually."
Although Chutikul's passion for advocacy started as a young girl, it was her educational path that helped her not only to advance in her career but to advocate for women and children throughout Thailand, particularly those who are underprivileged.
Chutikul attended IU in the 1950s and '60s, receiving a master's degree in educational administration in 1957 and an Ed.D in educational psychology, counseling and guidance in 1962 from the IU School of Education. She also studied her first love, piano, at the Jacobs School of Music.
Sharing a dorm with her mother, who was also obtaining her own degree, Chutikul was both shocked by the new environment -- there were 102 Thai students on campus at the time, much more than her alma mater in Spokane, Washington, where she received her bachelor's degree -- and appreciative of the warm Hoosier hospitality she received from her professors and the ability to express herself freely.
"The professors at IU were really very kind," Chutikul said. "They would open their home to us, cook Thai food for us; they really treated us as their own children."
Chutikul took the compassion she received and channeled it into her career. She started in education, where she helped develop guidelines for parents, caregivers, teachers and the Thai community on a nonviolent approach to child rearing. She also developed counseling services for students at Chulalongkorn University; founded the Demonstration School of Khon Kaen University; and was one of the founding members of the Faculty of Education at Khon Kaen, where she served as the first dean.
She went on to serve the Thai government and on local and national committees as an advocate for women and children. She served on multiple United Nations committees, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. She represented Thailand for 12 years on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
Under Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun I and II, she served as the only female cabinet minister and was responsible for women's affairs, children and youth, and social development. She was a senator who chaired the Senate Standing Committee on Women, Children and Youth.
Chutikul was also responsible for laws and policies that extended maternity leave in Thailand; allowed women to take high-ranking government positions; allowed children without birth certificates or house registration to enroll in school; and included gender equality employment, prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace and prohibition of child labor and punishment clauses in the Labor Protection Law.
Although praised for her work now, like most revolutionaries, Chutikul was not always met with acceptance or kindness for her ideas. She said some objections hurt more than others.
"There were many people who had a lot of strong objections, as you can imagine, whether in the social area or legal area," she said. "What hurts me the most is some women were against me on these issues. That really hurts because I didn't quite know what to say. If they were male we could say OK, this is a gender bias. But when they were female, and they were against the rights of the female and the rights of the children, I was speechless. It really hurts me, even today."
Using her faith and a whole lot of patience, Chutikul persevered, holding tight to some old advice.
"There is a Thai saying which says if you bite into it, don't let go. Just bite into it like a dog and don't let go."