Graduation which an Empire loved
Anandibai Joshi, the first Indian woman to graduate with a Western medical degree, received her graduation today in 1886. Her thesis on Obsterics was inspired by her own loss of a newborn child at age 14.
There seems to be a cruel irony to this world - for as much as it gives, it takes away too. And, such a twisted fate, was one of Anandibai Joshi, the first Indian female practitioner of Western medicine. Born in Kalyan, Bombay, she married very early - at the age of 9, to someone who was about 20 years older than her.
He supported her education, but at the same time, as she gave birth at 14 to a baby who lived only 10 days, her resolve became clear. The child had died as no proper medical care could be provided to him, and she would take to the cause of medicine herself if she had to - for her departed child.
Encouraged to study medicine, she would use her husband’s contacts, like Royal Wilder, an American missionary, to inquire about medical opportunities in the United States. Publishing the correspondence, Wilder would open up the gates to study when Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of Roselle, New Jersey, would offer Anandibai to stay at her home and study medicine in the United States.
Accepting the offer, even though being ill, Anandibai went on to the US in 1883 - after her efforts would be heavily critiqued by contemporary society, for it was unusual for a woman to go out and study in that time. She gave rousing speeches against such critique, gaining fame and donations to be able to go to America.
She would be admitted into the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, at the age of 19. Even as her health worsened more and more due to the harsh climate, and contracting Tuberculosis, she strove to complete her MD, with the thesis - “Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos” - fitting, for she had lost a child. This she received on the 11th of March, 1886. When she graduated, Queen Victoria herself sent a congratulatory message, upon being the First Indian Woman with a medical degree.
While she got a physician in-charge job at Kolhapur’s Albert Edward Hospital, she would die of tuberculosis at just the age of 22, in 1887. Her death was mourned all over India, as a warrior of medicine succumbed to their worst enemy, disease.