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Anandibai Joshee

Background information

Anandabai Joshee, M.D., an 1886 graduate of Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, set precedents and broke barriers when she became the first high-caste Hindu woman to receive a medical degree. Born in Poona, Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of nine to an older man who had been her teacher. Joshee had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits, which ultimately led her to leave home in 1883 to voyage to America.

Joshee’s desire to honor her native customs during her stay in the West was compelling. Rachel Bodley, Dean of the Woman's Medical College at the time, noticed that the young woman's health appeared to be failing. She discovered that this was due to the fact that Joshee was unable to prepare the foods which were customary in her diet. For the remainder of her stay in Philadelphia, Joshee lived in the Dean's home, where she was able to have the food to which she was accustomed. Although the young woman's fellow students looked askance when she appeared in a sari at her first anatomy class, she continued to wear her native costume throughout her stay; it was noted, however, that she wore fewer and fewer ornaments as time passed.

Upon completion of her medical studies, Joshee accepted the position of Physician-in-Charge of the female ward of the Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur, India. In recognition of the young doctor's accomplishments, Queen Victoria sent a special congratulatory note to the Medical College. Joshee sailed for home in October of 1886. Several months later, before she could begin her practice, she was stricken with tuberculosis. She died in Poona on February 26, 1887 and was cremated in accordance with traditional Hindu funeral rites. Although it was customary to scatter the ashes of the deceased to the "four winds," her husband, in recognition of her affection for this country, once again broke with tradition by sending her ashes to America for burial.

Resources in our collections

with some links to external online sources

  • Items in our digital collections flagged as Joshee-related
    Some duplication with items below.

  • Rachel Bodley papers (Acc 291)
    Correspondence to and from Rachel Bodley, Dean of Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, concerning the admission of Anandibai Joshee into Woman’s Medical College.  November 1882 and June1883.  One letter from Joshee to Alfred Jones of the Executive Committee, asking for financial aid to attend Woman’s Medical College.  All items are digitized.

  • "WMC/MCP Events Records (Acc 71)
    1886 commencement invitation, tickets, and name card for Anandabai Joshee.  Also includes newspaper clipping about the Woman’s Med 1886 commencement and India’s request for a woman doctor to run its Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur.

  • The life of Dr. Anandabai Joshee, a kinswoman of the Pundita Ramabai.  By Mrs. Caroline Healey Dall. 1888. Call number HQ1123/J6D2. 
    Digitized version available on Internet Archive.

  • The high-caste Hindu woman.  By Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati. With introduction by Rachel L. Bodley. 1888. Call number HQ1742/R24.   
    Digitized version available on Internet Archive.

  • 1886 Thesis: “Obstetrics in the Aryan Hindoo.”
    Box includes service photocopy and typescript transcription. 

  • Alumna file, Anandibai Joshee (1886)
    Includes biographical material, photocopies of correspondence from Accession 291, newspaper clippings, and other short publications concerning Anandibai Joshee.

  • Dr. Kirtane collection on Anandibai Joshee (Acc 1993.X.3 and 1993.X.4)
    Collection includes video tape of a short film, “Dr. Anandibai Joshi: Time and Achievement,” 1993; photographs of the headstone of Anandibai Joshee in a rural cemetery in Poughkeepsie; and a photograph of Anandibai Joshee's father’s home, where she lived until she married.

  • “The Work of medical Women in India,” in The Medical Woman’s Journal, Vol. 37, no. 5 (May 1930): 132-135).  By Anna Dengel.
    An overview of women physicians who worked in India in the late 19th century, with a brief mention of Anandibai Joshee.

  • “A Century of Medical Education for Women,” in Independent Woman, Vol. 29, no. 4 (April 1950): 104-106, 122.  By Louise Pearce.
    An article about medical missionaries who were graduates of Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania; notably Clara Swain and Anandibai Joshee.

  • Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania Faculty Minutes and Matriculation Books
    Grades and courses taken by Anandibai Joshee are listed for 5 terms from October 1883 until her graduation in March 1886.

  • Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania Annual Announcements
    Listed as a matriculant for the years 1884-885 (No’s. 35 and 36); as a graduate for the years 1886-1887 (No. 37); as a deceased alumni in the years 1890-1891 (no. 41)

  • Other digitized sources online at the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) website

Other sources

  • “Historical Photos Depict Women Medical Pioneers,” article and radio interview from PRI’s The World, 12 July 2013.  By Chris Woolf.

  • “Anandibai Joshee: Retrieving a Fragmented Feminist Image,” in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 31, no. 49 (7 December 1996): 3189-3197.  By Meera Kosambi.
    Anandibai Joshee was the first Maharashtrian woman to leave Indian shores in the latter half of the 19th century for higher studies abroad to beceme the first Indian woman to qualify as a medical doctor. The Maharashtrian psyche remains captivated by the image of Anandibai as a submissive and obedient girl-wife who fulfilled her husband's visionary ambition for her. However, the series of images sketched by Anandibai's own words produce a self-portrait in which the submissive wife coexists with an intelligent woman dispassionately perceptive of herself and her society. This essay attempts to reach the ‘real’ Anandibai and reclaim her fragmented feminism.

  • “A Prismatic Presence: The Multiple Iconisation of Dr Anandibai Joshee and the Politics of Life-Writing,” in Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 16, no. 35 (1 July 2001): 157-173.  By Meera Kosambi.
    This article examines the various persona of Anandibai Joshee, first Brahmin woman to leave India to obtain an education, as they appeared to her biographers across the multiple divides of race, culture, gender and time. It includes an analysis of the different biographies; author's interpretation of Anandibai's life; factors affecting the personal functions of biography and autobiography.

  • “Elusive Voices: The Lives and Letters of Anandibai Joshi,” in The Telegraph (Calcutta, India), 4 September 2007.  By Malavika Karlekar.
    Was Anandi a victim or did she intelligently make space for herself? The truth clearly lies somewhere in between.  Anandibai Joshi’s life has been dissected from several perspectives, and this newspaper articles discusses some of them.

  • Notable Women in the Life Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary.  Edited by Barbara S. and Benjamin F. Shearer.  1996.  208-213.
    A detailed biographical sketch of Anandibai Joshee.