The first Indian woman practicing doctor in the colonial India, Rukmabai Raut fought all the odds that came in her way to achieve this honor! Remembering this legendary woman on her birth anniversary, we are pleased to share with you the untold story of a woman who paved her way from being child bride at the age of 11 to be the India’s first practicing woman doctor!
- Rukmabai was born on 22 November 1864 to Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibhai who came from a community of carpenters (suthars) in Mumbai.
- 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 petition in the Bombay High Court in March 1884, pleading to restore conjugal rights of the husband over his wife. The court in its judgement 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.
- She then went on to study medicine in London before becoming India’s first practising lady doctor in 1894. She worked for many years in the Women’s hospital in Rajkot.
- Rukmabai wrote many letters in newspaper under the pseudonym, A Hindu lady, challenging the claustrophobic Hindu traditions.
- 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).
- Social reformer, education pioneer and a champion for the emancipation of women, Pandita Ramabai written in her letter “The government advocated education and emancipation but when a woman refused to “be a slave” the government comes to break her spirit allowing its law to become instrument for riveting her chains.”
- On September 25, 1991, 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.