Anandibai Joshi isnot only the first lady doctor of India but also believed to be the first Hindu woman to set foot on American soil.BIRTH & EARLY YEARS OF LIFE:
Anandibai Joshi was born on March 31, 1865 to Ganpatrao&Gangabai Joshi in Poona, India. She got married to Mr. Gopalrao Joshi, at age 9 years, because of the pressure laid by her family, who was a widower almost twenty years, her senior. He was a progressive thinker, and supported the education of women, which was not very prevalent in India at the time.INSPIRING EVENT:
Within couple of years of her marriage she gave birth to a baby boy but tragically lost him in 1o days of his birth. Perhaps it was this personal loss of her young baby that inspired Anandibai to study medicine & specialize in obstetrics
While the Joshi couple was in Calcutta, Anandibai's health was declining. She suffered from weakness, constant headaches, occasional fever, and, sometimes, breathlessness. Theodosia carpenter, US resident sent her medicines from America, without results.MOTIVATION BY HUSBAND -GOPALRAO JOSHI'SSUPPORT:
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. She was apprehensive, but Gopalrao convinced her to set an example for other women by pursuing higher education.
A physician couple named Thorborn suggested to Anandibai to apply to the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. On learning of Anandibai plans to pursue higher 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 at Serampore College Hall, explaining her decision to go to America and obtain a medical degree. She discussed the persecution she and her husband had endured. She stressed the need for Hindu female doctors in India, and talked about her goal of opening a medical college for women 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 India.
Here is an extract from Anandi's letter of application to the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania
"[The] determination which has brought me to your country against the combined opposition of my friends and caste ought to go a long way towards helping me to carry out the purpose for which I came, i.e. is to render to my poor suffering country women the true medical aid they so sadly stand in need of and which they would rather die than accept at the hands of a male physician. The voice of humanity is with me and I must not fail. My soul is moved to help the many who cannot help themselves."
Anandi's courage, conviction and her earnestness to study medicine against all odds impressed Rachel Littler Bodley, the dean of the college. The college offered Anandi a scholarship of US$ 600 per month for three years.
Royal Wilder, an American Missionary who had spent many years in India helped her to pursue education at USA. Wilder offered to help if the couple would convert to Christianity. This proposition, however, was not acceptable to the Joshi couple. Wilder was the person who helped Anandibai& wrote about her desire to study in the US in his magazine which in turn was read by Theodosia Carpenter who eventually became the surrogate family for Anandibai during her stay in US.
The US didn't figure in the imagination of young Indians under the British Raj & neither was it their country of preference to study. It was England & English universities that were the preferred destinations for modern young Indians like KadambaryGanguli (who studied medicine in England at the same time Anandibai was studying in the USA), PanditaRamabai, Gandhi, Nehru & othersMEDICAL EDUCATION:
Anandibai travelled to New York from Calcutta by ship. Theodicia Carpenter received her in June 1883. Anandibai wrote to the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, asking to be admitted to their medical program,(which was the first women's medical program in the world). Rachel Bodley, the dean of the college, enrolled her.
Anandibai began her medical education at age 19. In America, her declining health worsened because of the cold weather and unfamiliar diet. She contracted tuberculosis.ACHIEVEMENT & APPRECIATION
In spite of various challenges, Anandibai appears to have bravely endured the hardship and novelty of living in America and successfully completed her medical education. She graduated with an MD on 11 March 1886, the topic of her thesis having been "Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindus".
During the Convocation held on March 11, 1886, Anandi received a standing ovation when the president of the College said:
"I am proud to say that today should be recorded in golden letters in the annals of this college. We have the first Indian woman who is honoring this college by acquiring a degree in medicine. Mrs. Anandi Joshi has the honor to be the very first woman doctor of India".
On her graduation, Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory messageBACK TO INDIA!!
Instead of staying back in the US, she went back to India in late 1886 with her husband, who had come to accompany her back for the trip. In an interesting twist Anandibai went back to work in Kolhapur, the same area where Wilder had worked as a missionary during his 30 year stay in India. But, the princely state of Kolhapur appointed her as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local Albert Edward Hospital ( today's ChhatrapatiPramilaraje Hospital (CPRH)SHORT LIFE SPAN:
Anandibai died early next year on 26 February 1887 before reaching age 22. Her death was mourned throughout India. Her ashes were sent to Theodicia Carpenter, who placed them in her family cemetery in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Her enormous will power & giant efforts to pursue medical education despite miserable adversities related to finance, personal ill health, social resistance & so on to become doctor & serve for the society is really a great inspirable example for today's young girls pursuing medical education !!!