Page 44 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
P. 44

         The house of Dr Anandibai Joshi in Pune, now renovated. The blue plaque marks the historical building.
for husbands to focus on their wives’ education. Gopalrao was obsessed with the idea of Anandibai’s education and wanted her to learn medicine and create her own identity in the world. He not only taught her various languages like Marathi, Sanskrit, English and Modi (an ancient Indian script) but also Math- ematics, History, Geography, which fas- cinated her. It developed incessant thirst in her for knowing more — a feature absolutely needed to develop a scientific mind. Along with it developed the most important aspect of a scientific mind, which is to identify a problem to find a solution. Education transformed her contemplating mind and sharp intel- ligence to define her goal.
After the tragedy they faced in early married life — watching helplessly and losing their own newborn child with- out any medical help — opened her eyes to the plight of Indian women during pregnancies. She saw neonatal deaths around her. The problem for her studies was identified! Her goal was to study in the US, modern medicine for women’s diseases, then come back and help In- dian women overcome the obstetric problems and reduce mother and child mortality.
But how would this dream materialise? Various historical documents and cor- respondence show that knowing her desire, her husband encouraged her to study medicine. In 1880, he sent a letter to Royal Wilder, a well-known Ameri- can missionary, stating his wife’s inter- est in studying medicine in the US and inquiring about a suitable post in the US for himself. Wilder published the correspondence in his Princeton’s Mis- sionary Review. Very interesting turn as the luck would have, Mrs Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of Rochelle, New Jersey happened to read it while wait- ing to see her dentist. Impressed by both Anandibai’s desire to study medicine, and Gopalrao’s support for his wife, she wrote to Anandibai. Carpenter and Anandibai developed a close friendship and came to refer to each other as ‘aunt’ and ‘niece’. Later, Carpenter would host Anandibai in Rochelle during her stay in the US, also finding a right place for her to apply to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
The obstacles were unlimited but the communication that started between Mrs Carpenter with Anandi and Gop-
alrao helped her throughout her college days. However, to fend for the expenses to travel and sustain was a big problem.
This was a thought impossible for the contemporary society to digest. Sadly enough, after learning of Anan- dibai’s plans to pursue higher education in the West, orthodox Indian society censured her very strongly. On the oc- casion of addressing an audience, she insisted fearlessly to talk herself rather than Gopalrao to explain her thought process behind such a decision. This in itself was a great manifestation of con- fidence, clarity of goals and balanced mature mind to go ahead in the pursuit of knowledge.
Anandibai addressed the community at Serampore College Hall (1883), in the then Bengal province, now West Bengal, explaining her decision to go to America and obtain a medical degree. She dis- cussed the persecution she and her hus- band had endured. She stressed the need for female doctors in India, emphasising that Hindu women could better serve as physicians to Hindu women in given circumstances to avoid maternal and neonatal mortality. Her speech received publicity, and financial contributions started pouring in from all over India.
        Image Courtesy: Dr K K Kshirsagar

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