Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first Indian female doctor and graduate with a two-year degree in western medicine from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, USA.
Anandibai was born on 31 March, 1865. She was raised in Kalyan, Maharashtra. Her family had been landlords for years but due to extreme taxes levied by the British, they went through financial difficulties. At the age of nine, she was married to Gopalrao Joshi, a twenty years older widower and a clerk. Originally, her name was Yamuna but she was renamed by her husband after marriage.
They moved to Kolhapur due to Gopalrao’s transfer. Anandibai gave birth to a boy at the age of fourteen but her child did not survive due to lack of medical care. She was devastated after her child’s death and after a few months, she decided to become a doctor so that no one else has to through the pain of losing a child. She also felt the urge of becoming a doctor because women were uncomfortable with male doctors that time and were shy to discuss their problems with them. Gopalrao believed that a woman has equal right to learn and receive the education she deserves. Even before she wanted to become a doctor, Gopalrao was determined to teach her and would make her read books as much as possible. He wanted her to have her own identity besides being somebody’s wife. He relentlessly encouraged her to chase her dream of becoming a doctor. However, it was not easy to enroll her in a school, considering that people from her community opposed it. He tried to enroll her in a school in Kolhapur but constant opposition from the people compelled them to move to Calcutta.
A letter was sent by Gopalrao to American missionary, Royal Wilder, stating that her wife is interested to pursue medicine in United States and enquired about a fit post for himself. This letter was made public by Wilder in Princeton’s Missionary Review. It happened to be read by Theodica Carpenter from New Jersey. She was impressed to see Anadibai’s passion to study medicine and endless support to her by her husband that she wrote to Anandibai. They developed a close bond with each other and immensely helped by Theodica during her stay in United States. Gopalrao wanted to move to United States with her but his job and responsibility toward his family did not let him.
She travelled to New York by ship in 1883. Women’s medical college was the second women’s medical college in the world, where she was enrolled after writing a letter to admit her. She began her medical journey at the age of 19. But during her medical program, she contracted tuberculous due to extreme cold weather. Gopalrao could not see her all this time and conversed with her through letters. He seemed unhappy with her lack of efforts. He managed to move to United States but when he reached there, she had graduated with MD and became the first woman in India to receive education abroad. In 1886, she moved back home, where was offered to work as the physician-in-charge at Albert Edward Hospital.
Before she passed away, every effort was made to treat her. Medicines were sent from America to treat her tuberculosis. Still, she was getting weak and medicines eventually stopped working. She kept studying medicine until her death on 26th February, 1886.
Anandibai was a true inspiration for not only women of those times but woman who dream of creating their own identity today as well. She gave confidence to woman around the world that nothing is impossible, if u have the will and determination.
Categories: Culture and History, Learning