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Remembering Kadambini Ganguly: The first modern Indian woman Physician

Kadambini Ganguly’s achievements drew the attention of well-known people of the era, including Florence Nightingale and Annie Besant. 

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Remembering Kadambini Ganguly: The first modern Indian woman Physician

Kadambini was born to an emancipated father and headmaster Brajakishore Bose who was also an ardent follower of the Brahmo Samaj ideals. She was born in Chandsi, in Bengal’s Barisal district (now in Bangladesh) and even at that time received English education – first at the Brahmo Eden Female School, Dacca, and then at Hindu Mahila Vidyalay, Ballygunj, Calcutta.

Ganguly married Dwarakanath Ganguly, a prominent Brahmo Samaj leader and widower who, at 39, was 17 years her senior. Despite being a busy mother bringing up eight children, including two stepchildren, Kadambini was always pushing against the glass ceiling set on women’s freedom at a time when ill practices such as child marriage and sati were strife.

In 1884, Ganguly was awarded a government scholarship of Rs 20 a month for women medical students.

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1886 marked her record as one the first Indian women physician eligible to practice western medicine alongside Anandi Gopal Joshi. She received her GBMC (Graduate of Bengal Medical College) degree, allowing her to practice.

A gynaecologist, she was successful in private practice and, in 1888, was appointed to the Lady Dufferin Women’s Hospital on a salary of Rs 300 per month, a princely sum in those days. Ganguly went to England and obtained further training from Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1892.

Kadambini was also involved in several movements which greatly contributed to India’s freedom struggle. She became the first woman to be on the dais at a session of the Indian National Congress. Kadambini also worked extensively for the rights of female coal miners in the eastern parts of India, and served as the President of Transvaal Indian Association.

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Ganguly’s achievements drew the attention of well-known people of the era, including Florence Nightingale and Annie Besant. Well-known American historian David Kopf also wrote about her in his 1979 book The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind.

Ganguly practised at the hospital till her death in 1923, at the age of 61. She died on October  1923, fifteen minutes after returning from one of her regular medical calls. Unfortunately, she left the world, before any medical aid could reach her.

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