Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first Bharatiya woman to obtain a degree in Western medicine. She was also the first Hindu woman to do so, and is also believed to be the first Hindu woman to set foot on American soil.
Noticing Anandibai‘s interest, her husband Gopal Rao helped her receive education and learn English.At age of 14, Anandibai gave birth to a boy. But the child survived only ten days because the necessary medical care was unavailable. This situation proved a turning point in Anandibai‘s life, and inspired her to become a physician.
Gopalrao encouraged his wife to study medicine. In 1880, he sent a letter to Royal Wilder, a well-known American missionary, stating Anandibai‘s interest in studying medicine in the United States, and inquiring about a suitable post in the U.S. for himself. Wilder offered to help if the couple would convert to Christianity. This proposition, however, was not acceptable to the Joshi couple.
Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of Roselle, New Jersey, happened to know about Anandibai‘s desire to learn medicine and she wrote to them, offering Anandibai accommodation in America. An exchange of many letters between Anandibai and Theodicia ensued, in which they discussed, among other things, Hindu culture and religion.Anandibai‘s health was declining but Gopal Rao decided to send Anandibai by herself to America for her medical studies despite her poor health. She was apprehensive, but Gopalrao convinced her to set an example for other women by pursuing higher education.
Anandibai addressed the community at Serampore College Hall, explaining her decision to go to America and obtain a medical degree. She discussed the persecution she and her husband had endured. She stressed the need for Hindu female doctors in Bharat, and talked about her goal of opening a medical college for women in Bharat. She also pledged that she would not convert to Christianity. Her speech received publicity, and financial contributions started coming in from all over India. The then Viceroy of India contributed 200 rupees to a fund for her education.
In late 1886, Anandibai return to Bharat, receiving a warm welcome.
The princely state of Kolhapur appointed her as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local Albert Edward Hospital.