National Doctor’s Day is celebrated every year on July 1 in order to show gratitude to those doctors who have selflessly aided people in their time of need and tirelessly worked for the health of their patients. Since the Covid-19 pandemic has struck the importance of doctors has been realised worldwide. As we salute the sacrifices of the doctors, let us take a look at the life of India’s first female doctor, Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi.
Anandibai was born in a conservative Brahmin family of Kalyan in present-day Maharashtra’s Thane district on March 31, 1865. She was originally named Yamuna by her parents, but her name was changed by her husband post her wedding. When she was just nine years old, she was married off to 25-year-old Gopalrao Joshi. According to her biography, Gopalrao had married her on the condition that she would study post their marriage. When they got married, she even did not know the alphabet since her family was against her getting an education. At that time, it was considered that the husband of the woman who studies died at an early age.
Initially, Anandibai did not have much interest in studies and her husband had to scold her in order to teach her. However, one setback in her life changed her mentality towards studies.
According to the biography, when Anandibai was just 14-years-old, she lost her baby in only 10 days. She was so much shocked by the death of her baby that she took a vow to become a doctor and try to stop such untimely deaths that were quite frequent in those days.
Gradually, Anandibai started studying more and more and her husband supported in fulfilling the vow. After completing basic education, she enrolled herself in a medical program at the Woman’s Medical College in Pennsylvania which was one of the two women’s medical colleges in the world. However, she had to face a lot of criticism from society for going abroad to study despite being a married woman.
Without caring about the criticism, Gopalrao made sure that she achieved her dreams and for this, he sent her to New York from Kolkata by ship. At the age of 19, she became the first woman physician in India to have graduated with a two-year degree in western medicine from the United States.
On her return to India, she was given a grand welcome and the princely state of Kolhapur had appointed her as the medical in-charge of the women’s ward of the Albert Edward Hospital.
She succumbed to tuberculosis at the early age of 22 but went on to become an inspiration to generations of women to pursue their education.