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A Medical Pioneer

May/03/2024 / by Team Seema

Spotlighting the first U.S. South Asian female doctor from the 1880s

Despite the countless cultural and gendered barriers faced as a woman living in the 1880s, Anandibai Joshee never gave up her dream of becoming a doctor. Born in a rural community in Maharashtra, India, Joshee was married at only 9 years old and lost a baby at 13 due to inadequate medical care. Determined to help other women in her community who were uncomfortable seeing male doctors, she resolved to become a physician herself.

Joshee found an opportunity to study medicine in Philadelphia without having to convert to Christianity—a rarity at the time. Despite struggling with the unfamiliar weather, food, and being one of the few women of color at the college, she persevered and graduated in 1886. Her achievement was so remarkable as the first Hindu female doctor in the world that even Queen Victoria sent her a letter of congratulations.

As Joshee’s legacy continues to inspire generations of women, the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) recently marked her birthday — March 31 — as Anandibai Joshee Day. 

Seema

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