She was born in 1865 in an extremely orthodox Brahmin family in Maharashtra, a 9-year-old girl got married to a widower who was almost thrice her age. Sounds like a normal “old Indian saga”? Not really! The girl, later on, became the first Indian woman to qualify as a doctor.
Even though she died at a very young age of 21, she opened the gates for many young women in India who wanted to do much more than devoting their entire life to household chores.
Yes, we are talking about Anandi Gopal Joshi, India’s first lady to qualify as a doctor from the USA in 1886.
You go to a hospital and a lady doctor is there to attend to you. Doesn’t look like an unusual scenario, right? But back then in then in the nineteenth century, it was nothing less than a miracle. Even today, India is struggling with a major dearth of doctors, especially female doctors. At present, nearly 66 % of health workers are men.
Only 17 % of all allopathic doctors and 6 % of allopathic doctors in ruler areas are women. According to the paper “Human resources for health in India”, published in British medical journal ‘Lancet’, 1 in 5 dentists is women while the number stands at 1 in 10 pharmacists. (Source).
If this is a condition in the current scenario, where we believe India is progressing rapidly and women are getting equal opportunities, just imagine what would have been the condition at the time when Joshi dared to go out her way to pursue medicine.
We all hear about how people fight against the masses and make their marks. In glory and success, we often fail to recall the efforts of other people who made it possible for them. Every superhero has his army of helpers and we have this army in real life too form of family, friends, mentors, etc.
Gopalrao Joshi, Anand’s liberal husband is one such person who stood by his wife’s side and acted as her biggest inspiration. Gopalrao, a postal clerk, was determined to educate his wife when she expressed her wish to study medicine at the age of 14, after losing their first child 10 days after delivery because of unavailability of proper medical resources.
At a time when women’s education wasn’t taken seriously, Gopalrao appeared as a great exception. He had married Anandi on the condition that he should be permitted to educate the girl and that she should be willing to read and write.
Gopalrao started teaching Anandi how to read and write Marathi, English, and Sanskrit. He transferred himself to Calcutta to avoid direct interference of Anandi’s parents in her education.
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