Kadambini Ganguly

We have seen a lot of women who overcome the hindrances made by society to a woman. One of them was Kadambini Ganguly, who broke the norms of society and became India’s first female doctor. She was born on 18 July 1861, when India was struggling for her freedom. At that time people were not much aware of the importance of female education. She was also one of the first graduates (along with Chandramukhi Basu). She also became one of the first female doctors of the country who were certified to practice western medicine.

She was in Bhagalpur, Bihar, in a Brahmo family, in 1861. Her family was originally hailed from Barisal (in present Bangladesh). Her father’s name was Braj Kishore Basu. He was a headmaster by profession and participated in several social movements aimed at women’s empowerment. He established the Bhagalpur Mahila Samiti with Abhay Charan Mallick in 1863.

She completed her education at the Bangla Mahila Vidyalaya, and after that, she wrote the entrance examination for the University of Calcutta. In 1878, she became the first Indian woman to clear the entrance. And because of her efforts, Bethune College introduced first arts and then Graduation courses in 1883.

She married a Bramo reformer, Dwarkanath Ganguly. Her ambition was to go to the clinical school but at that in Calcutta Medical College females were not permitted to enter. She and her husband volunteered to change this standard. And in a result, she became the first woman to attempt to get admission to Calcutta Medical College in 1884. She graduated in 1886 and was awarded the Graduate of Medical College of Bengal and made history as the first practicing woman physician with a degree in modern science in the whole of South Asia. She worked for a short period of time at Lady Dufferin Women’s Hospital (her salary was 200 rupees per month). Then she decided to travel to London in 1892 for further education. The reason to leave was strong opposition from her colleagues and administrative staff who believe that this is a male-dominated stream and could not accept a woman entering the mainstream. Apart from this she also contributed to several movements in India’s freedom struggle. She became the first woman to be on the platform at a session of the Indian National Congress. She organized the Women’s conference in Calcutta (1908) and spiked many movements during the partition of Bengal. She also served as the President of the Transvaal Indian Association and worked for the rights of female coal miners in the eastern parts of India. She did not leave her profession as a doctor and continued to practice until her death in 1923.

The 19th century was a period of misogynistic practices such as Sati, Child marriage, and many more, she was truly a torchbearer in terms of providing women access to educational institutions. She is still an inspiration to many women in India who thinks that she cannot reach her goal because she is married or financially weak or having children. She achieved her goal despite all the hindrances. Women like her have always been an example in the society who created hr space for women in the fields which remain traditionally a man’s sphere even in the present day.

In the book ‘How India Wrought For Freedom’, Annie Besant depicted Kadambini as a “symbol that India’s freedom would uplift India’s womanhood”.