In today’s world, a woman can do anything she wants. We live in a feminist world where the opinions of a woman are being heard, and she can follow her own path. But this was not always the case. Today we are going to talk about a woman who defied stereotypes centuries ago to become the first female practitioner of western medicine in India. Yes, we are talking about Anandi Bai Gopalrao Joshi, a legendary woman who became an inspiration to millions of women in India.
Who Was Anandi Gopal Joshi?
Anandi Gopal Joshi was born on 31 March 1865 in a very orthodox brahmin family of landlords who was going through a financial crisis. At the time of her birth, she was named the Yamuna by her parents. She was born, brought up, and married in Kalyan. Belonging to an orthodox family, she was forced to marry at the age of nine to a man who was a widower and thrice her age. After marriage, her husband Gopalrao Joshi changed her name to Anandi.
Unlike her parents, Gopalrao Joshi was a liberal and progressive thinker who supported women’s education, which was a radical thought for that time. He married Anandi only on the condition that he should be allowed to teach her, and she must be willing to learn. He was a postal clerk by profession and was Anandi’s biggest inspiration.
Turning Point In The Life Of Anandi Gopal Joshi
Every person’s life has one incident, which proves to be a turning point in their life because it completely changes the direction of their ongoing life. For Anandi Bai Joshi, it was the death of her son just ten days after delivery due to the lack of medical care. This incident had a huge impact on Anandi’s life. She was 14 at that time, and after this incident, she decided to study medicine.
Studies And Hurdles
When Anandi Bai expressed her desire to study medicine, her husband Gopalrao supported her wholeheartedly. Even though there was resistance from Anandi’s family, he refused to give up. He started teaching her English, Marathi, and Sanskrit. When the resistance from Anandi’s family kept increasing, he got himself transferred to Calcutta so that there is no interference and disturbance in Anandi’s studies. Her family was unhappy with this new development and Gopalrao’s stubbornness, but he was unfazed by all this.
He wrote a letter to an American missionary, Royal Wilder, expressing Anandi’s desire to study medicine in America. The Royal Wilder published his letter in a local newspaper where it was seen by Theodicia Carpenter, who then contacted the Joshis and promised them help. Meanwhile, Anandi’s health was deteriorating. She was suffering from constant weakness and had fever frequently. She was wary of going abroad in such a state but was persuaded by Gopalrao.
She went to Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and got her degree in M.D. in obstetric practices at the age of 19. On her graduation, she got a congratulatory message from Queen Victoria, who lauded her for her will to study and fulfill her dreams. She came back to India and was appointed as a physician-in-charge of the female ward at the local Albert Edward Hospital by the princely state of Kolhapur.
When she came back to India, the first symptoms of Tuberculosis were already seen in her. At that time, Tuberculosis was incurable, and it was known that this disease would kill her. She passed away on 26th Feb 1887, just a month before turning 22. Her ashes were sent to Theodicia Carpenter, with whom she had developed a very intimate relationship and whom she considered her aunt. Mrs. Carpenter placed her ashes in her family cemetery near New York.
Anandi Gopal Joshi is an inspiration for every woman, not only in India but the whole world, because of the fact that despite the hardships she faced, she never stepped back. She had the will and the courage to fight against all odds to make her dream come true. She tried to change the perspective of society towards women and proved that if a woman wants to, she can achieve anything in her life as long as she is ready to fight for it. We should draw inspiration from her life and keep moving ahead, no matter the obstacles life throws at us.