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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Edition 14 : First Women Doctor of India

Anandi Gopal Joshi (or Anandibai Joshi) was born on March 31, 1865. She was one of the two first Indian women to obtain a medical degree through training in Western medicine. The other one was Kadambini Ganguly, who earned a medical degree the same year, 1886, as Anandibai.
Anandibai was born as Yamuna in Thane in an orthodox wealthy Brahmin family. At her age 9, she was married by her family to Gopalrao Joshi, who was a widower and almost twenty years her senior. After the marriage, the husband renamed Yamuna as Anandi.
Gopalrao worked as a postal clerk in Kalyan. Later, he was transferred to Alibag, and finally to Calcutta. He was a progressive thinker, and supported the education of women, which was not very ­­prevalent in India in his times.
It was common for Brahmins in those times to be proficient in Sanskrit; however, through influence on Gopalrao's mind of Lokhitawadi's Shat Patre, he had regarded learning English well to be more important than Sanskrit. Noticing Anandibai's interest in acquiring education, he helped her receive education and learn English.
At age of 14, Anandibai gave birth to a boy. But the child survived only ten days because of nonavailability of needed medical care. This situation proved a turning point in Anandibai's life, and inspired her to become a physician.
medical career
Gopalrao encouraged his wife to study medicine. In 1880, he sent a letter to Royal Wilder, a well-known American missionary, stating Anandibai's interest in studying medicine in the United States, and inquiring about a suitable post in the U.S. for himself. Wilder offered to help if the couple would convert to Christianity. This proposition, however, was not acceptable to the couple.
Wilder published the correspondence in his publication, Princeton's Missionary Review. Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of Roselle, New Jersey, happened to read it. Impressed by Anandibai's desire to learn medicine and Gopalrao's support for his wife, she offered Anandibai accommodation in America.
While the Joshi couple was in Calcutta, Anandibai's health was declining. She suffered from weakness, constant headaches, occasional fever, and, sometimes, breathlessness. Theodicia sent her medicines from America, without results. In 1883, Gopalrao was transferred to Serampore, and at that time, he decided to send Anandibai by herself to America for her medical studies despite her poor health.
Anandi began her American medical education at the the age of 19, and she was a model student, submitting a thesis on "Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos" and graduating with her M.D. on March 11, 1886. Queen Victoria sent a congratulatory message, and with the news of her achievement, Anandi was offered a job as physician-in-charge of the female ward at Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur, India.
In the meantime, however, Anandi had contracted tuberculosis -- perhaps worsened by a combination of cold weather and an unfamiliar diet -- and her health was steadily declining. Her friends sent her to Colorado Springs for her health, but she returned without improvement. Nevertheless, she returned to India, receiving a hero's welcome, while the newspapers closely monitored her physical condition. She died on February 26, 1887, in her mother's arms at her birthplace, and was mourned throughout India.
Opposition And Promise
A physician couple named Thorborn suggested to Anandibai to apply to the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. On learning of Anandibai's plans to pursue high education in a Western country, the then orthodox Hindu society very strongly censured her. Many Christians supported her decision, but they wanted her to convert to Christianity.
Anandibai addressed the community, explaining her decision to go to America and obtain a medical degree.She stressed the need for Hindu female doctors in India She also pledged that she would not convert to Christianity. Her speech received publicity, and financial contributions started coming in from all over the India. Prominent among them was then Viceroy of India who contributed 200 rupees to a fund for her education.

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