Happy 150th Birthday, Anandibai Joshi! Born on this day in Kalyan near Mumbai, she was the first Indian woman to get a Western medicine degree in 1886.
She was born in 1865 in an extremely orthodox Brahmin family in Maharashtra. As a nine year old girl she was married off to a widower who was almost thrice her age. However, he appears to have been a more forward thinking fellow than his peers at this time (and aside from the deeply problematic custom of child bridehood): Gopalrao Joshi was a postal clerk. When his wife at age fourteen expressed she wanted to study medicine he supported her. It seems her drive to do so came after their first child died, ten days after birth, because proper medical resources were not available.
This was a time when women’s education wasn’t thought of or if it was, sneered at. Gopalrao seems to have been an exception to the rule: he married Anandi specifically on the condition that his wife be educated, whether her family had traditional misgivings or not.
She sadly died at the very young age of twenty-one, yet she opened the gates for many young women in India who wanted to move beyond solely dedicating their lives to a domestic status.
Thanks to Roger Whitson PhD. at Washingon State University for the link to his Third Year Pre-Tenure talk on The 19th Century and Digital Humanities, in which some of my fellow Steampunks and Steampunk India are featured:
(Extract). “[Slide 13] ….I contrast this sense of technology and empire, which sees Western society as the center of the world communicating to its margins with the rise of multicultural steampunk – which fractures the Britishness of steampunk and searches for historical alternatives. This is what I call a digital appropriation of Victorian elements that are manipulated into different cultural histories. On the left is Suna Dasi, who says on her website “as a steampunk afficiando, I found myself wishing for more roles occupied by Victorian women in the steampunk fiction I was reading: women who were less hampered by the framework of the society damsel. Being of Indian heritage sparked the desire to see Indian women break out of their mother of pearl cages and into steampunk adventures.” Several steampunk designers look to different historical frames when imagining technology. The top right is an illustration taken from descriptions of submarines in the Shakuna Vimana (a 1700 BCE Sanskrit manuscript that imagines magical flying machines that decimate enemy cities). Indian steampunk is taking inspiration from these sources. On the bottom right is the Asian steampunk designer James Ng, whose exhibited his blueprints for Chinese steampunk airships at numerous different conventions and art exhibitions.” The full transcipt of talk and slides can be found at http://www.rogerwhitson.net.