India is not new to women in the field of science. One of the first women physicians from India, Anandi Gopal Joshi, inspired several Indian women to study medicine and her's is a story that must be told.
Born into a family of landlords in 1865 in Maharashtra, Anandi was married off to a man 20 years elder to her when she was just 9.
Her husband worked as a government clerk and was apparently a strong proponent of women's education during that time. He encouraged Anandi to continue her schooling.
At the age of 14, Anandibai gave birth to a child who lived for only 10 days due to lack of medical care. After losing her child, she became aware of the loopholes in the medical care and decided to pursue a course in Medicine.
Anandi's husband Gopalrao supported her and when she failed to get admission in missionary schools in Maharashtra, the duo moved to Calcutta. Here, she learned to read and write in Sanskrit and English.
With the desire to study western medicine, she and her husband wrote letters to a well-known American missionary. The aim of the letter was to inquire for a position for Gopalrao in the US and secure admission into a medical college for Anandi.
Reports suggest that while Gopalrao could not secure a position for himself in the US, Anandibai left India in 1883 with two acquaintances. She enrolled herself in Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now called Drexel University College of Medicine). and started her medical education at 19. By 21, she was a graduate with an MD in obstetrics.
Her final thesis was titled 'Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos'. At the graduation event, she was declared the first woman MD from India. Even Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message on her graduation.
Anandi's health apparently started deteriorating when she was in the US. Determined to take up the role of physician in charge of the female ward at Kolhapur’s Albert Edward Hospital, she returned to India.
She succumbed to Tuberculosis before she could start her practice as a doctor in India. Anandi was just 21, when she died. But she has inspired generations of Indian women to study medical science.
It is believed that Gopalrao sent her ashes back to USA to be laid to rest in Theodosia Carpenter’s family plot. The inscription still bears her name.
Some biographies on Anandibai say that her husband often abused her, especially when he feared she may not devote enough time to her studies.
Her achievements were honoured when a crater on Venus was named after her.
Her resolve was powerful. She created history when even men in India did not think of achieving what she accomplished. Today, on her birth anniversary, let's take inspiration from her life.