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  • Aarya Vernekar

Anandibai Joshi

Today we see doctors all around us whether they are male or female. We do not care as far as our medication is concerned. Ever wondered who was the first female doctor of India? Her life was so fascinating almost as if it were a fictional story! Let us recall the wonderful yet true story of Dr Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi, India’s first female doctor of western medicine.

In olden times child marriage was very prevalent just like in the case of Anandibai she was married off to a man around 20 years older than her, he was Gopalrao Joshi. Unlike the other men of his time he was liberal and radical, he supported the education of women. At the age of 14, she gave birth to her son who only survived for 10 days due to a lack of medical amenities. This event was a turning point in her life and inspired her to become a physician. After many tries, Gopalrao tried to enrol Anandi in a missionary school where she learnt to communicate in English and Sanskrit. Her husband encouraged her to pursue a career in medicine; he then sent a letter to a famous American missionary Royal Wilder. In 1883 he sent her to the United States. She addressed the community at Serampore and explained her decision to go to the USA. She discussed the persecution she and her husband had endured. She passionately laid stress on the need for female doctors in India, emphasising that Hindu women could serve better physicians to Hindu women; this speech made by her received a lot of publicity and limelight. Despite all the hate she got from the orthodox and backward class of Indian society, there was no turning back for her.

She began her medical training at the age of 19. In America, her health worsened because of the change in diet and weather, she contracted tuberculosis. Despite all the stones in her path, she finally earned an MD, also the highest medical degree. Many famous personalities congratulated her on this memorable and prideful achievement, including Queen Victoria and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. She received a grand welcome in 1886 from the same people who discouraged her and considered her to be a disgrace, she was appointed as a physician of the lady ward in the local Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur.

She died at the age of 22 due to tuberculosis, her death was mourned throughout India. Due to sheer grit and determination and the efforts of her husband she was indeed a figure of inspiration to many oppressed women of her era, motivating them to do something unimaginable, erasing all myths and boundaries between men and women. Her inspiring story proved that Indian women are much more than what others and themselves think they are.

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