Rukmabai Raut biography: The First Practicing Indian Woman Doctor

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The first Indian woman practicing doctor in colonial India, Rukmabai Raut fought all the odds that came in her way to achieve this honor! We are pleased to share with you the untold story of a woman who paved her way from being a child bride at the age of 11 to be India’s first practicing woman doctor!


Rukmabai Raut biography personal life career

  • Rukmabai was born on 22 November 1864 to Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibhai who came from a community of carpenters (suthar) in Mumbai. Her father died when she was just two years old and her mother expired when she was seventeen.
  • At an early of 11, she was married off to Dadaji Bhikaji without her consent, which was a prevalent culture at that time.
  • Though she was allowed to complete her education, soon enough her husband forced her to live with him. He even filed a petition in the Bombay High Court in March 1884, pleading to restore the conjugal rights of the husband over his wife. The court in its judgment eventually directed Rukhmabai to comply or to go to prison.
  • Rukmabai courageously refuted the court’s order and told them that she would rather be imprisoned than go into a conjugal relationship with her husband. Further, she contested her husband’s claim to conjugal rights in an iconic court case that led to the passage of the Age of Consent Act in 1891.
  • In July 1888, a settlement was said to be reached with Bhikaji, who relinquished his claim on Rukhmabai against payment of Rs.2000. Bhikaji remarried in 1889.

Also read: Sudha Murthy Biography: Interesting facts about Sudha Murthy

Rukmabai Raut biography personal life career – first practicing female Indian doctor

  • People like Dr. Edith Pechey (then working at the Cama Hospital, suffrage activists like Eva McLaren, Walter McLaren, and many others helped raise funds for her further education.
  • She went on to study medicine in London before becoming India’s first practicing lady doctor in 1894. She worked for many years in the Women’s hospital in Rajkot.
  • Rukmabai wrote many letters in the newspaper under the pseudonym, A Hindu lady, challenging the claustrophobic Hindu traditions.
  • She returned to India in 1895 and worked as Chief Medical Officer at the Women’s Hospital in Surat.
  • Rukhmabai later worked at the Zenana (Woman’s) State Hospital in Rajkot until her retirement in 1929.
  • In Rajkot, she established the Red Cross Society.
  • She settled in Bombay (now Mumbai) after her retirement.
  • Apart from serving as a doctor, Rukmabai also worked as a social reformer writing boldly about Hindu practices such as child marriage and women seclusion (purdah system).
  • On September 25, 1955, at the age of 91, Rukhmabai breathed her last but her motivational thoughts on women empowerment will continue to inspire millions of women till the end of time.

Do read: Kajal Sharma – Voice and Messiah for the disabled

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