On the 31st of March, 1865, Yamuna was born to an orthodox Brahmin family in Kalyan, Maharashtra. In accordance with the custom of those times, she was married, at the age of nine, to Gopalrao Joshi, a postal clerk who was nearly twenty years her senior.
Gopalrao changed his wife's name to Anandi. His zeal for women's education led him to teach his wife the alphabet and arithmetic. The couple also agreed upon learning English, a language more pragmatic in British India than Sanskrit, the traditional language of learning.
Several biographers recount how Gopalrao faced stiff opposition from his family and community for insisting on providing his wife with an education.
It is also said that once Gopalrao beat Anandibai when he found her helping her grandmother in cooking.A husband beating his wife for not cooking was acceptable, but punishing one's wife for cooking instead of studying was truly unheard of!
At the age of fourteen, Anandibai gave birth to a boy. The couple's joy, however was short-lived, as the child died when he was merely ten days old. The infant's death- a result of the inavailability of timely medical care- proved to be a turning point for Anandibai.
She decided to study medicine, and received her husband's support for the same.
Gopalrao tried to arrange funds to send his wife to America for her studies, and wrote to a Christian missionary, Royal Wilder, for the same. Wilder agreed to finance Anandibai's studies on the condition that the couple convert to Christianity. While Gopalrao and Anandibai did not accept this condition, their appeal- made public by Wilder in a periodical- nevertheless found an answer from Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of New York.
Mrs Carpenter invited Anandibai to the United States, to study Western medicine.
But Anandibai still had a hurdle to cross- her community was in staunch opposition to her going to America- a sin in those days. Anandibai then addressed the community at the Serampore (in present-day Hooghly district), emphasising on her motivation to pursue the course, the need for women doctors from among Hindus, and her vision to establish a women's medical college in India.
Part of Anandibai's application to WMCP. drexelmed
Her speech was met with approval, and Anandibai embarked upon her journey to the United States in 1883. She applied at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she began her course at the age of 19.
It is noteworthy that along with Anandibai, two other students, Keiko Okami from Japan and Tabat Islambooly from Syria, became the first women from their respective countries to be awarded degrees in Medicine.
Anandibai graduated in 1886, specialising in 'Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos". She returned to India the same year, and was appointed the head of the female ward of the Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur.
An exemplary figure for Indian women, Dr Anandibai Joshi could not pursue her ambition for long, as tuberculosis claimed her at the age of 22, on February 26, 1887. Her ashes were committed to Mrs Carpenter's family cemetery in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Her legacy lives on in numerous stories in film and literature, as well as the Anandibai Joshi Award for Medicine, awarded by the Institute for Research and Documentation in Social Sciences, Lucknow, as well as a scholarship awarded by the Government of Maharashtra to young women working in the sector of women's health. A crater on Venus is also named 'Joshee' in her honour.
Our tribute to this remarkable lady!
Title image: wikipedia