18 July 1861
|Died||3 October 1924 (aged 63)|
(m. 1883; died 1898)
Kadambini Ganguly (Bengali: কাদম্বিনী গাঙ্গুলি; 18 July 1861 – 3 October 1924) was one of the first Indian female doctors who practised with a degree in modern medicine. She was the first Indian woman to practice medicine in India. Ganguly was the first woman to gain admission to Calcutta Medical College in 1884, subsequently trained in Scotland, and established a successful medical practice in India.
Ganguly was born Kadambini Basu daughter of Brahmo reformer Braja Kishore Basu, she was born on 18 July 1861 at Bhagalpur, Bengal Presidency (modern day Bihar) in British India, raised in Barisal. The family was from Chandsi, in Barisal which is now in Bangladesh. Her father was headmaster of Bhagalpur School. He and Abhay Charan Mallick started the movement for women's emancipation at Bhagalpur, establishing the women's organisation Bhagalpur Mahila Samiti in 1863, the first in India.
Despite coming from an upper caste Bengali community that did not support women's education, Kadambini initially received English education at the Brahmo Eden Female School ,Dacca; subsequently at Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya, Ballygunj Calcutta which was renamed as Banga Mahila Vidyalaya in 1876. The school merged with Bethune School (established by Bethune) in 1878 and she became the first woman to pass the University of Calcutta entrance examination.She passed the FA exam in 1880. It was partly in recognition of her efforts that Bethune College first introduced FA (First Arts), and then graduation courses in 1883. She and Chandramukhi Basu became the first graduates from Bethune College, and also the first female graduates in the country.
Long before graduating school, Kadambini had decided to go to the clinical school. Madras Medical College had begun admitting female undergraduates in 1875, while the Calcutta Medical College (CMC) didn’t permit any females to enter. Ganguly and her husband, Dwarkanath Ganguly, volunteered to change this standard. Kadambini became the first woman to attempt gaining admission in the CMC in 1884. She even acquired a cooperation of Rs. 20 per month from the public authority.
Ganguly joined the medical college on 23 June 1883 despite strong criticism from the society opposing women liberation. She received a scholarship of Rs. 15 for two years. In 1886, she was awarded GBMC and became the first practising woman physician with a degree in modern medicine in the whole of South Asia. This attracted the attention of Florence Nightingale, who in 1888 wrote to a friend asking for more information about Ganguly.
The possibility of a female turning into a specialist was not invited by the customary society; indeed, even some teachers at the CMC were not content with the incorporation of ladies, to such an extent that one teacher did not allow Ganguly to pass one of her subjects. As a consequence, rather than a MB degree, Ganguly was granted the Graduate of Medical College of Bengal (GMCB) degree in 1886.
The same year, Ganguly was selected to Lady Dufferin Women’s Hospital in Calcutta. There, she felt that she was being looked down upon on by the individual specialists, as she did not have an MB degree. She understood that she required more capabilities to gain the respect of her companions. In 1893, she travelled to Edinburgh, where she studied at the Edinburgh College of Medicine for Women. Since she already possessed several prior qualifications, Ganguly was able to obtain a 'triple diploma' in a short time, being licensed as LRCP (Edinburgh), LRCS (Glasgow) and GFPS (Dublin). On her return to India, she was elevated to the position of senior specialist, and began a successful private practice. She visited Nepal in 1895 to successfully treat the mother of the reigning Nepalese monarch, Dev Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana.
Ganguly was an active campaigner for social change in India. She was one of six female delegates to the fifth session of the Indian National Congress in 1889, and organised the 1906 Women's Conference in Calcutta after the Partition of Bengal. Ganguly was also successful in pressuring Calcutta Medical College to allow more women as students.
Kadambini Ganguly married Dwarakanath Ganguly on 12 June 1883, 11 days before joining Calcutta Medical College. As the mother of eight children, she had to devote considerable time to her household affairs. She was deft in needlework. Among her children, Jyotirmayee was a freedom fighter and Prabhat Chandra was a journalist.
American historian David Kopf notes that Ganguly "was appropriately enough the most accomplished and liberated Brahmo woman of her time", and her relationship with her husband Dwarkanath Ganguly "was most unusual in being founded on mutual love, sensitivity and intelligence." Kopf argues that Ganguly was highly unusual even among emancipated women of contemporary Bengali society, and that "her ability to rise above circumstances and to realize her potential as a human being made her a prize attraction to Sadharan Brahmos dedicated ideologically to the liberation of Bengal's women."
Ganguly died on October 3, 1923, after having conducted an operation the same day.
Criticism from conservatives quarters
She was heavily criticised by conservative society of her time. After returning to India from Edinbugh and campaigning for women's rights, she was indirectly called a 'whore' in the Bengali magazine Bangabashi. Her husband Dwarkanath Ganguly took the case to court and won, with a jail sentence of 6 months meted out to the editor Mahesh Pal.
In popular culture
A Bengali television serial Prothoma Kadambini based on her biography is currently being telecast on Star Jalsha since March 2020 starring Solanki Roy and Honey Bafna in the lead and is also available on Hotstar. Another Bengali series named Kadambini, starring Ushasi Ray as Ganguly, was telecast on Zee Bangla in 2020.
Despite practicing medicine far longer than Anandibai Joshi, who only practiced for around three months before she died of tuberculosis, Ganguly is not widely known outside India.
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- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), (1976/1998), Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) in Bengali, pp 79–80, ISBN 81-85626-65-0
- Murshid, Ghulam (2012). "Ganguly, Kadambini". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
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- "A Convocation for the conferring of Degrees". The Times of India. 15 March 1883. p. 9.
Among the recipients of the B.A. degrees were two young ladies of the Bethune Female School, Miss Chandramukhi Basu and Miss Kadambini Basu, who were loudly cheered. The Vice-Chancellor [of Calcutta University] (the Hon. H. J. Reynolds) presided.
- "Kadambini Ganguly : कदंबिनी गांगुली कोण होत्या? : पाश्चात्य औषधाचा सराव करणारे पहिले महिला डॉक्टर". The GNP Marathi Times (in Marathi). 17 July 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
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- "A lady doctor in orthodox Nepal". Englishman's Overland Mail. 27 November 1895.
- Star Jalsha, Prothoma Kadambini
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