Published: 24th August 2021
What the FAQ: Who was Kadambini Ganguly, the woman that Aligarh Muslim University recently named a hostel after?
She received heavy backlash for her dream to become a doctor, so much as that a popular Bengali magazine of the time indirectly referred to her as a sex worker
The Aligarh Muslim University recently made news after the varsity named one of their girls' hostel after Kadambini Ganguly. If you're hearing this name for the first time, worry not. We got you covered.
Who was Kadambini Ganguly?
Even today, education is a distant dream for many young girls. Women are still expected to be limited to the kitchen and "motherly duties". However, the situation was far worse up until the late 20th century. There are several women like Savitri Bai Phule and Fatima Sheikh who fought for female education in the pre-independence era. And just like them, there was another woman, Kadambini Ganguly, who fought against social evils and went on to become the first woman to become a physician in the whole of South Asia.
She grew up in a town that is now in Bangladesh and was the first candidate from her school who appeared for and cleared the University of Calcutta entrance exam in 1878. This was a historical moment by itself as she became the first woman to pass the test ever.
How did her tryst with medical science come about?
Most people around her at the time assumed that her thirst for education would end after graduating. But she clearly had no plans to stop. She went on to study medicine and had faced a lot of backlashes, owing to this. In fact, the backlash was so bad that a popular Bengali magazine of the time indirectly referred to her as a sex worker.
When did she finally become a doctor?
As one can imagine, her struggle to become a doctor remained a faraway dream for a while after that. So much so that even Calcutta Medical College refused her admission despite her merit because there was no history of Indian women studying there.
It was only after she and her husband threatened the college with legal action that she was allowed to study medicine there. It was by the year 1886 that she became the first Indian women physician to practice western medicine.
What happened after that?
There was no stopping her feet from wandering after that. She left for the United Kingdom in 1892 to gain more experience in the field of medicine. Once she was back in India, she worked for a short period in Lady Dufferin Hospital and started her private practice later. She was also socio-political active and played a key role in the fight to improve the conditions of female coal miners in Eastern India.