Lady Doctors: The Untold Stories of India’s First Women in Medicine

Kavitha Rao

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At a time when medicine is a highly sought-after career for Indian women, it is hard to imagine what it was like for the pioneers. The story of how firmly they were bound in fetters of family, caste and society, and how fiercely they fought to escape, needs to be told. In Lady Doctors, Kavitha Rao unearths the extraordinary stories of six women from the 1860s to the 1930s, who defied the idea that they were unfit for medicine by virtue of their gender. From Anandibai Joshi, who broke caste rules by crossing an ocean, to Rukhmabai Raut, who escaped a child marriage, divorced her husband and studied to be a doctor; from Kadambini Ganguly, who took care of eight children while she worked, to child widow Haimabati Sen, who overcame poverty and hardship—these women had a profound and lasting impact. And in their forgotten lives lie many lessons for modern women.

In truth, the compelling stories of these radical women have been erased from our textbooks and memories, because histories have mostly been written by men, about men. In an immensely readable narrative, and with impeccable research, Lady Doctors rectifies this omission.