KADAMBINI GANGULY: FIRST INDIAN LADY DOCTOR .By confluence | December 24th, 2011 | Category: Spotlight |
A tribute on her 150th anniversary .
The Medical College, Bengal, was established in1835 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) the then capital of British India. It was the first modern medical institution (Hippocratic Medicine) in the Afro-Asian continent. Admission of female students began in 1883.
Kadambini Ganguly (1861- 1923) and Bidhumuki Bose were the first lady medical students (1884) of the Medical College, Bengal. This was the era (second half of the 19th century flowing into the 20th) of India’s intellectual renaissance. It was the beginning of modern India. It was this renaissance that enabled Western science to take root in India and flourish. Three Indian celebrities, Rabindranath Tagore (1861- 1941), Archarya Prafuklla Chandra Roy (1861- 1944) and the first Indian lady doctor Kadambini, were born in the same year.
The first women doctors in rational medicine (Hippocratic) were Elizabeth Blackwell (1821- 1910) in the USA, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836 - 1917), UK and Sophia Jex-Blake (1840 - 1913) also UK.
Kadambini Ganguly (Gangopadhay, nee Basu) was the daughter of Brajakishore Basu, an enthusiastic Bhrama leader and a pioneer of the women’s liberation movement.
Kadambini started her schooling at Ballygang Girls School and in 1878 she and Sarala Das were allowed to sit for the entrance examination of the University of Calcutta, established in 1857. Before that girls were not allowed to sit for this examination. Kadambini passed her F.A. (First in Arts) and B.A.(Bachelor of Arts) examinations. She and Chandramukhi Basu were the first two lady graduates of the University of Calcutta in 1882 and took their degrees at the convocation of 1883. Even the University of London, established in 1826, began awarding degrees to women only five years earlier in 1878. Oxford University began admitting women in 1879, one year after the admission of female students to the University of Calcutta. Cambridge opened Tripos examinations to women in 1881. Calcutta’s record is therefore commendable.
Kadambini got married sometime after graduation to Dwarkanath Ganguly (Gangopadhay) - a schoolteacher and an ardent supporter of female education. Her husband encouraged her to enter Medical College which she did in 1884. She was awarded G.B.M.C. (Graduate of Bengal Medical College) in1886. Kadambini, one of the first lady doctors in the world, was a devoted wife and mother. She had 5 children. Leaving her five children to the care of her elder sister, she sailed for Great Britain in 1892. She returned with three Licentiate post graduate medical diplomas in medicine and surgery from three colleges (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin) and was attached to Lady Dufferin Hospital in Calcutta for sometime. She practised Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Calcutta and was professionally very successful.
Kadambini was a caring mother, dedicated wife and social activist in spite of her busy schedule as a lady doctor. She is a model of today’s working woman. In her profession she followed the physician -philosopher Sir William Osler’s (1849 - 1919) dictum in his seminal book, “The Evolution of Medicine”: “Medicine is an art, not a trade, a calling, not a business, a calling in which your heart will be used equally as much as your head”
Kadambini actively participated in social reform movements and in 1890 became the first woman to address an open session of the Indian National Congress, established in 1885. Kadambini passed away at the age of 62, leaving behind 7 children.
Dr.Sisir K. Majumdar is founder/director of the Majumdar Institute of History, Sociology and Philosophy of Science and Health Sciences, Kokata, India.