Why is a Crater on Venus Named After India’s Dr Anandibai Joshi?
Dr Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi was the first Indian woman to acquire a degree in Western medicine from the USA.
Today marks the 152nd birth anniversary of Dr Anandi Joshi, who fought her way to become India’s first lady doctor.
Dr Joshi lived a mere 21 years but achieved so much in that brief span that a crater on Venus has been named in her honour. The 34.3 km-diameter crater on Venus named ‘Joshee’ lies at latitude 5.5° N and longitude 288.8° E.
While Dr Joshi’s feat is well-chronicled in Maharashtra, it took astronomy enthusiast Sandhya Ramesh’s February 2016 tweet to remind us about the crater being named after her.
The US government’s Venus Magellan Crater Database has more details on the crater – “Numerous impact craters >15 km in diameter on Venus have been named for famous women (last names).”
Dr Anandibai Joshi, the Pioneer
Born on 31 March 1865 to a Maharashtrian Brahmin family in Kalyan, Yamuna (renamed Anandi by her husband) married Gopal Vinayak Joshi, a widower and a postal department employee who was 20 years older than her. Wedded off at the age of nine, the bright girl found encouragement from her husband to study English and Sanskrit.
At the age of 14, she lost her newborn to lack of expert medical care, as the only doctor available in their locality was a male and a Christian. The couple realised the dearth of qualified native doctors. Her husband, then a post-master, had been transferred to Alibaug and then to Calcutta. Dr Joshi’s health was declining and she suffered from weakness, constant headaches, occasional fever, and, sometimes, breathlessness.
Ambitious but Proud
Dr Joshi’s husband encouraged her to go to the United States of America to acquire a degree in Medicine. He wrote to a missionary friend Royal Wilder in the US, asking for help to admit Dr Joshi to a medical school, and also find a job for himself.
The missionary was willing to help on one condition, that they converted to Christianity. This was unacceptable to the couple.
Some biographies by later writers say Gopalrao was often abusive and pushy towards Dr Joshi, especially when he feared she may get deterred or pinned down by traditions that discouraged women’s education.
Fortune Favours the Brave
However, Wilder was good enough to publish Gopal’s letter in the Princeton Missionary Review.
A woman named Theodosia Carpenter was touched by the earnestness of the letter. She offered to accommodate Dr Joshi when she came to the US. She struck up a correspondence with her, and they became good friends. Dr Joshi survived the long sea voyage in the company of a missionary couple and was welcomed in New York by Carpenter who instantly bore her off to her family home in Roselle, a three-hour train ride away.
On a family picnic, a photographer was sent for and Dr Joshi mailed the visuals back to Gopalrao to whom she wrote diligently every week.
She Did India Proud in the Nineteenth Century
She was the first woman of Indian origin to study and graduate with a degree in medicine from the United States. She studied at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP), which is now called Drexel University College of Medicine.
She even won a scholarship of $600 for three years. Her dissertation was titled ‘Obstetrics among the Hindu Aryans’.
The Heavy Price
By now the strain of a different culture, and the cold and damp had affected her and she developed a persistent cough. She graduated on 11 March 1886, in the presence of her husband, as well as social reformer Pandita Ramabai.
Even Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message. The Philadelphia Post wrote, “Little Mrs Joshee who graduated with high honours in her class, received quite an ovation.”
A visibly sick Anandi boarded the ship for India, with her husband.
Fondly Remembered By America Too
Soon after returning to a heroine’s welcome in Bombay, tuberculosis claimed her and the 21-year-old died without a chance to practice medicine in her country. She died on 26 February 1887.
Her ashes were later sent to Carpenter, who had them interred in her family cemetery at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery by the Hudson in New York, in Lot 216-A.
(This story was first published on 31 March 2016 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Dr Anandi Joshi’s birth anniversary)
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