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  • Yashasvi Mulchandani

Anandibai Joshi- The Unsung Hero

Changing the mindset of people and turning the tide in your favour is extremely difficult, especially for a woman in the 19th century. Anandibai Joshi was one such wonder who was the first woman to step into the male dominated field of Western medicine in India.

Born into a poverty-stricken family of Marathi landlords, Anandibai, was given the name ‘Yamuna’ .Due to familial pressure, she was married to Gopalrao Joshi, at the tender age of nine. Strangely enough at that time, Gopalrao encouraged and supported Anandi in completing her education.

Anandi bore her first child at the young age of fourteen, but unfortunately, due to the less than ideal healthcare available, the child passed away within ten days. This was a turning point in Anandi’s life.

Gopalrao then enrolled Anandi into a missionary school, where she learnt Sanskrit and English. He later moved to Calcutta with her , and supported her through her education. He wanted her to pursue medicine. When she made the decision to go to the United States for her further education, it raised a number of questions and looks of disapproval from everyone around her. In the 1800s, the outcry of criticism had its roots in the question- Why would an Indian woman go abroad for her education? Anandi answered this in her famous address at a public hall in Bengal’s Serampore College, in front of a huge crowd. She spoke in English, and impactfully delivered the message that women in India are uncomfortable when being treated by doctors of the opposite gender. Anandi was an eloquent speaker and a dedicated student at heart.

Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania( now part of Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia) was where Anandi received her training as a general physician. When she completed her degree, the dean wrote a letter to Queen Victoria, the then Empress of India, who heartily congratulated her. When the hero was welcomed back home in India, she was already aware that she had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Anandibai Joshi passed away at the young age of twenty-one, but in her short lifespan, she opened the doors for a new generation of aspiring female doctors. She has truly left her mark on the world.

Anandibai Joshi

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