The Three Golden Women Of Medicine In Pre-Independent India

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By: Dr. Samayug Bhowmik, Bureau Chief, ICN-West Bengal               PART-2

KOLKATA: Herein, I will highlight three Indian daughters who became doctors and made their presence in other fields also.They are Kadambini Ganguly, Anandi Gopal Joshi and Rukhmabai.

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi (popularly known as Anandibai), another Indian, graduated as a physician in 1886 from the United States. Originally she was named Yamuna’. She was born on  31 March 1865 at Poona( now Pune).You might have seen her in Google Doodle this year on March 31.

As was the custom and practice at that time, Anandi was married off at the age of nine to Gopalrao Joshi, a postal clerk at Kalyan and twenty years older than her. He was a progressive thinker and a supporter of women’s education.

At the age of fourteen, Anandibai gave birth to a son, who survived for ten days only and died due to inadequate medical care. This incident became a turning point in her life and inspired her to become a doctor later on.

On account of the above in 1880,Mr.Gopalrao sent a letter to a well-known American missionary, Mr. Royal Wilder, stating his wife’s interest in studying medicine in the United States.

Wilder published that in a periodical “Princeton’s Missionary Review”. which was read by Ms.Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of Roselle, New Jersey, who was very much impressed by both Anandibai ‘s  desire to study medicine, and Gopal Rao’s support for his wife.She wrote a letter offering Anandibai accommodation in America.

Anandibai  stressed the need of female doctors in India, and talked about her goal of opening a medical college for women in India. Her speech received publicity, and financial contributions started pouring in from all over India.

On learning of Anandibai ‘s  plans to pursue higher education in the West, orthodox Indian society strongly opposed the same.In the meantime a physician named Dr.Thorborn suggested that Anandibai should apply at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Anandibai reached New York from Kolkata (Calcutta) by ship where she was received by Theodicia Carpenter in June 1883. She went to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and got admitted to their medical program.

Anandibai started her medical education and training at age of nineteen. In America, her health worsened because of unfamiliar climate and diet. She got infected with Tuberculosis. She became MD on March 1885. On her graduation, Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message.

After returning, in 1886, Anandibai was appointed as the physician-in-charge of the female ward at Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur but was unable to work long due to her illness.

Dr. Anandi died on 26 February 1887 before turning 22. Her death was mourned throughout India. Her ashes were sent to Theodocia Carpenter, who placed the same in their family cemetery.

To Be Continued…….

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