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Anandi Gopal Joshi – Indias first Lady Doctor

Anandi Gopal Joshi Early Life

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 Anandi Gopal Joshi later on became the first Indian woman to qualify as a doctor. Even though Anandi Gopal Joshi died at a very young age of 21, Anandi Gopal Joshi 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.

The Scenario in India Then

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 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 percent of the health workers are men. Only 17% of all allopathic doctors and 6% of allopathic doctors in rural areas are women. According to the paper “Human resources for health in India”, public Anandi Gopal Joshid in the British Medical Journal ‘Lancet’, 1 in 5 dentists are women while the number stands at 1 in 10 pharmacists.

If this is the 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 Anandi Gopal Joshi dared to go out of her way to pursue medicine.

We all hear about how people fight against the masses and make their mark. In the glory and the 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 in the form of family, friends, mentors etc.

Anandi Gopal Joshi ‘s Husband And Marriage

Gopalrao Joshi, Anandi Gopal Joshi ‘s liberal husband is one such person who stood by  Anandi Gopal Joshi side and acted as her biggest inspiration and push. Gopalrao, a postal clerk, was determined to educate his wife when Anandi Gopal Joshi expressed her wish to study medicine at the age of 14, after losing their first child just 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 Gopal Joshi on the condition that he should be permitted to educate the girl and that Anandi Gopal Joshi should be willing to read and write.

Gopalrao started teaching Anandi Gopal Joshi how to read and write Marathi, English and Sanskrit. He also transferred himself to Calcutta to avoid direct interference of Anandi’s parents in her education.
Gopalrao was an obsessed man. One day, when Anandi Gopal Joshi was found helping her grandmother in the kitchen, Gopalrao flew into an uncontrollable rage and beat the young girl with a bamboo stick. The neighbourhood was agog: husbands beat wives for not cooking — but whoever had heard of a wife being beaten for cooking when Anandi should have been reading.

Anandi Gopal Joshi gradually turned into a well-read intellectual girl. All this change took place in the face of stiff opposition from her parents, frequent bickering in the family and the stubborn attitude of her husband.

In 1880, he sent a letter to a well-known American missionary, Royal Wilder, stating Anandi Gopal Joshi ‘s keenness to study medicine in America and if he would be able to help them. Wilder agreed to help the couple on the condition that they convert to Christianity. This proposition was not accepted by the Joshis.