February 27, 2017
In our ongoing series #WomenThatDid, ENTITY profiles inspirational and famous women in history whose impact on our world can still be felt today. If you have a suggestion for a historical powerhouse you would like to see featured, tweet us with the hashtag #WomenThatDid.
Name: Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi
Lifetime: 31 March 1865 – 26 February 1887
What she’s known for: Joshi didn’t have the happiest of beginnings. She was married off at only nine years old to a 29-year-old man, who was actually very much into women’s education and made sure she was taught, to the point where it’s suspected he would abuse her in an attempt to keep her focused on education. And it doesn’t stop there—when she was just shy of 14 her son died because of a lack of medical care in the area. She was a high-caste woman in Indian society—if she couldn’t have received proper care, then that says a lot about the state of medicine for other women in India. But how did she receive the funding to go to America and study?
Well, it turned out there were quite a few Christians who supported her decision and would have funded her ambition but on the condition she convert to Christianity. Joshi refused. At a speech she gave at the Serampore College Hall she explained that she wanted to go to the U.S. to study medicine so she could come back and open a medical college in India for women. She also promised not to convert to Christianity and her speech received national recognition. Even the then current Viceroy of India donated 200 rupees to fund her education.
She studied at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Her thesis was “Obstetrics among Aryan Hindoos“ and at only 21 years old she earned her M.D. She then returned to India and started working at the Albert Edward Hospital in Kohlapur, where they made her the physician-in-charge of the female ward. Never very healthy, she died a month before her twenty-second birthday of tuberculosis.
Why we love her: At only 21 years old, Joshi became the first woman from India to study and graduate with a degree in medicine in the United States. Joshi pioneered the way for Indian women to start their own careers in medicine and she’s still remembered as a hero to Indian feminists today.
Fun fact: According to Joshi’s application letter, she wanted to study medicine because, “the purpose for which I came, i.e. is to 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.”
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