Okay, let's get to business. Have you ever heard that name? The one just mentioned in previous paragraph.. Well, she was the FIRST modern day Indian woman to set her foot on American soil ALONE AND to earn M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree in modern Western medicine. She was here before Swami Vivekanand! Think about that for a moment.
Daughter of Ganpat-rav Amruteshwar Joshi and Gangabai Joshi, born in Pune on March 31st, 1865, Yamuna or "Daughter of the Sun" was a LEGEND we never heard about. [at least I did not].
She was sixth of the ten children the couple had. Of her 4 brothers, 2 died before her. Of the 5 sisters, first and forth were dead.
Born in wealthy and high-caste Brahmin family, she was surrounded by the nobility of the times in and around Kalyan and Puna.
Her father is described by her cousin Ramabai[Another iconic Indian woman we have managed to forget] as "a rich landholder of Kalyan, a town to the North of Bombay, where he was warmly regarded by the high caste people". One of her mother's uncle was a distinguished Hindu physician in Puna.Yamuna grew up between Kalyan and Puna. She was from the first a great pet of her father, and her happiest hours were passed upon his knee, under a great plane-tree in the Kalyan garden, where he went to rest every day after dinner.
There is a very fascinating tale from her childhood when she was around five years old. Credit/praise makes me uncomfortable and have no desire for it, but after thorough search on Google, it is evident that no blog/site has ever reported this so far.
Once she had gone to bed as usual, at sometime before she was five years old, when there suddenly appeared to her the figure of a young and handsome man, dressed in a manner, and carrying weapons that she had never seen, in her dream.
"Who are you?" She said like any frightened child, when he fixes his eyes upon her.
"Do you not know who I am?" He said gravely.
"Go then to your father," resumed the soldier " and tell him to make you acquainted with my life, for it is you who are to tread in my footsteps."
At this she waked, bathed in perspiration and trembling. In the morning she went to her father and earnestly entreated him to tell her about the "God" whom she had seen. Ganpatrav was unable to identify the figure from Yamuna's description, but in the midst of many words, which she had forgotten, the soldier had said - "It is ungrateful to be ignorant of him whose blood flows in your veins"
From these words Ganpatrav felt certain that it was one of his own ancestors who had appeared to his daughter and he reverently opened his "Family Roll". Apparently, there was in her home an immense genealogical record of the Joshees. It stretched over 2000 years!!!! (YES 2000 years). Preserved by the head of the family in each generation and was illustrated by painted pictures of the costumes worn by its heroes and the events briefly described on it. It was written on a sacred paper kept expressly for such uses, from which no word could ever be effaced, emulating in this respect the tablets of the recording angel. As it was always kept under lock and key, Anandabai had never seen it, and knew nothing about it she had this dream.
Going through the "Roll" they came to a figure that Yamuna recognized at once as that of the man who had appeared to her. It was that of the young general who had founded the fortunes of her family, and in whose palace she had been born. From that time Gunputrav was even more tender toward his daughter. He not only gave her whatever she desired, but he paid special attention to her education.
Gopalrav, was an ardent supporter of widow remarriage and women’s education. In fact, he married Yamuna on the condition that he would be allowed to educate her. She married Gopal Vinayak Joshee on March 31st, 1874 [on her birthday!] and she was now called Anandabai, or “Joy of my heart.” - by her husband. He was a very progressive man for his age and in an almost fatherly way encouraged his wife’s education.
I want to digress here for a moment and share very interesting note in her biography [ penned by Mrs. Caroline Healey Dall] for our pseudo-secular Indian friends, who ALWAYS speak ill of Hindu faith and it's practices.
There is nothing in the original Hindu scriptures to require the seclusion or subjection of women. The Hindus assert that this originated after the Mahometan conquest, in consequence of the licentious boldness of the Moslem soldiery.Back on track, there is so much more to share, almost feel like I should recommend some film director about creating a biopic on her! But as the post is growing longer, will try to cut it short.
Anandabai’s and Gopal's only child was born in her fourteenth year, probably at Kolhapur, sometime early in 1878, as Gopal wrote from that town in 1878 and 1879. It lived ONLY about ten days, and died, as Anandabai thought, because it did not have a competent physician. It was this that led her to think of studying medicine. “A child’s death does no harm to its father,” she once said, “but its mother does not want it to die.”
We are now in fast forward mode and will be skipping lot of details. With Gopal's exemplary support and after long struggle with family and relatives, she sailed from Calcutta for New York, April 7th, 1883, being the first unconverted high-caste Hindu woman to leave her country. Read that last line again. Does any word grab attention? Why word 'unconverted' is mentioned there? [ Does that suggest, there might have been Indian women prior to her who sailed to USA after conversion??]
She was first to break so many barriers in days when even basic education for women was looked upon as an alien and bizarre thought by society at large. There are SO many interesting and [some gloomy as well ] details. I am listing a few below.
- The then Viceroy of India contributed 200 rupees to a fund for her education.
- Anandabai was offered a scholarship of $600 against the tuitions amount $325.50.
- she graduated with an MD on 11 March 1886, the topic of her thesis having been "Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos".
- On her graduation, Queen Victoria had [supposedly] sent her a congratulatory message.
- On her way back to India, while she was sick, doctors on the ship refused to treat her, a brown woman.
- Appointed June 1st, 1886, to the post of Physician-in-charge of the Female Wards of the Albert Edward Hospital,Koihapur, India.
- You would enjoy listening to the below audio discussion hosted by Marco Werman about her and two of other women from the class of 1886 of WMCP.( Women's medical college of Pennsylvania). The discussion starts with the image posted on the left above.... Enjoy!
Whether you read her biography or not, you must read her application letter below to WMCP. Out of the immense love for Gujarati [Didn't I mention that before!], I translated it to Gujarati as well.
Not going in to the details of her last days as it's a saddening read, I will leave you with the below image that immortalizes this pioneering woman from our land. (31 March 1865 – 26 February 1887)
Finally the second goal/intention of writing this post. Dear Government of India, can you please consider starting a national level scholarship/fellowship in her name? It's TIME to get rid of endowments/hospitals/schools/awards/scholarships/schemes in the name of Gandhi's and Nehru's.