Today’s Google Doodle celebrates India’s first lady doctor. Google said Doodle was created by Bangalore-based artist Kashmira Sarode who imagines Joshi celebrating her degree. Like many other women of her era, Anandi Gopal Joshi got married at the age of nine to a person who was much elder to her but that did not deter her determination to pursue medicine. Before she died at the age of 21, she qualified as the doctor from USA. It may sound quite normal today but back then it was miracle. Many of women of her age could not step beyond household chores. But her determination inspired many then and now.
Who was Anandi Gopal Joshi?
Anandi Gopal Joshi was born as Yamuna in Kalyan of the Thane district of Maharashtra. After marriage, her name was changed to Anandi Gopal Joshi. Her husband Gopal Joshi, a progressive thinker, was a postal clerk in Kalyan. He supported education for women, which was not very prevalent at the time. The major turn in Anandi Gopal Joshi life came when her son died after ten days of birth because the medical care needed for his survival was unavailable. This inspired her to become a physician and her husband stood by her side and acted as her biggest inspiration and push.
He started teaching Anandi 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. Anandibai travelled to New York from Calcutta by ship, chaperoned by two female English acquaintances of the Thorborns. In New York, Theodicia Carpenter received her in June 1883. Anandibai wrote to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, asking to be admitted to their medical program, which was the second women’s medical program in the world. Rachel Bodley, the dean of the college, enrolled her.
She began her medical education at age 19. In America, her declining health worsened because of the cold weather and unfamiliar diet. She contracted tuberculosis. Nevertheless, she graduated with an MD on 11 March 1886; the topic of her thesis was “Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindus”. On her graduation, Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message.
In late 1886, She returned to India, receiving a grand welcome. The princely state of Kolhapur appointed her as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local Albert Edward Hospital. She died early the next year on 26 February 1887 before turning 22. Her death was mourned throughout India. Her ashes were sent to Theodicia Carpenter, who placed them in her family cemetery in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The Institute for Research and Documentation in Social Sciences (IRDS), a non-governmental organization from Lucknow, has been awarding the Anandibai Joshi Award for Medicine in reverence for her early contributions to the cause of advancing medical science in India. Government of Maharashtra has established a fellowship in her name for young women working on women’s health.