"In 1886, a young doctor stepped off a ship from America, eager to take up the role of physician in charge of the female ward at Kolhapur’s Albert Edward Hospital. Not only was she India’s first female doctor, but she was only 19 years old at the time. Her name was Anandi Gopal Joshi, and her story is one of courage and perseverance," so begins the statement issued by the Google Doodle team, on the commemorative illustration they've released for Anandibai (as she is popularly known) on what would have been her 153rd birthday.
Before her marriage to a clerk and progressive thinker named Gopalrao Joshi, Anandi was known as Yamuna. Yamuna was nine at the time of her marriage, Gopalrao was two decades older. He renamed her Anandi after their wedding. By the age of 14, Anandibai had given birth to the couple's first child — a son; the infant however, didn't survive beyond a few days. The loss of her baby is said to have affected Anandibai greatly, and triggered her interest in health and medicine.
Her own health was poor, and at this time Gopalrao was transferred to farway Serampore (near then Calcutta). He urged Anandi to study medicine overseas, and began correspondence with a noted American missionary about the same. The missionary (Royal Wilder) published his correspondence with Gopalrao, and the missives caught the eye of an American lady named Theodicia Carpenter. She would prove to be an invaluable ally and advisor for Anandibai, sending her medicines in India, and helping her apply to and settle in at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Anandibai sailed for the US when she was only 17; there had been some opposition from orthodox community members, but she and Gopalrao convinced them of the necessity for a Hindu woman doctor in India. By the time Anandibai completed her MD and returned to India, aged 19, the homecoming was marked with great fanfare. She was appointed the physician in charge of the women's wing at the Albert Edward Hospital, in the then princely state of Kolhapur.
Unfortunately, her health had deteriorated further during her time abroad. Anandibai had contracted tuberculosis. She died of the illness before her 22nd birthday, in 1887. Her ashes were reportedly sent to Theodicia Carpenter in New Jersey, who had them interred at her family cemetery.
The Google Doodle honouring Anandibai has been created by Bengaluru-based artist Kashmira Sarode, who imagines Joshi celebrating her degree. Anandibai may not have lived very long, but in the brief period that she did, she served as an inspiration to generations of Indians to come — men and women alike.
Happy Birthday, Anandi Gopal Joshi!
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Updated Date: Mar 31, 2018 09:23:43 IST