On July 18, 1861, Kadambini Bose was born in Bhagalpur, British India (modern-day Bangladesh). She was born during the Bengali renaissance, a period of religious, social, and educational developments in the Bengal area from the nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. This cultural revolution had a direct influence on Kadambini since her father was a prominent member of the Hindu reformation movement Brahmo Samaj, as well as co-founder of India’s first women’s rights group, Bhagalpur Mahila Samiti. And, despite the fact that educational options for Indian women were limited at the time, Kadambini’s father, the headmaster of Bhagalpur School, recognised the value of education and enabled Kadambini to attend.
Kadambini married Dwarkanath Ganguly, her mentor and instructor at Bethune College, after graduation. Dwarkanath, an outspoken advocate for women’s rights in India, urged his wife to seek a medical degree.Calcutta Medical College declined to enrol Kadambini, but the couple persisted, and she was finally admitted as the college’s first female medical student. Despite continuous opposition from instructors and staff, Kadambini received her Graduate of Bengal Medical College degree in Calcutta in 1886, becoming the first Indian-educated female doctor.(Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first female Indian doctor, although she received her education in America.)
Kadambini had only been practising medicine for a few months when a hardline Hindu news publication published an article questioning her doctorate credentials and referring to her in derogatory terms. Kadambini took the case to court, and after a lengthy legal struggle, the article’s editor was convicted to six months in jail for libel. Conservatives opposed to female emancipation could not stop her, and Kadambini chose to pursue the highest possible medical qualification; she flew to the United Kingdom in 1892 and obtained three additional doctorate certificates. She returned to India and worked as a gynaecologist at Lady Dufferin Hospital before opening her own private practise.
Kadambini’s hectic life as a doctor and mother of eight children did not prevent her from playing a part in India’s women’s rights movement. She was one of six delegates in the first female delegation to the Indian National Congress in 1889, and she helped organise the Women’s Conference in Calcutta in 1906. She was also quite involved in a number of other campaigns, such as one that sought to better working conditions for female Eastern Indian coal workers.