Google India, through its innovative doodles, has paid homage to Rukhmabai on her 153rd birthday. She was one of the first woman to practice medicine in colonial India, the first one being Dr Kadambini Ganguly. The first non practising lady physician of India was Dr Anandi Gopal Joshi.
The Google Doodle illustrated by Shreya Gupta shows the image of the doctor among her patients, working dedicatedly to better their conditions.
Her brave stance towards ‘age of consent’
Born on this day in 1864 in Bombay, Rukhmabai was the only daughter of Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibai. She was only eight years when she lost her father.
Rukhmabai was married off at the early age of 11 to Dadaji Bhikaji. Her mother later married Sakharam Arjun, an eminent physician and the founding member of Bombay Natural History Society.
Rukhmabai continued to stay with her mother and her stepfather even after marriage. However, Dadaji filed a case in the court, pleading it to order Rukhmabai to stay with him. But Rukhmabai refused to move in with her husband stating that a woman cannot be compelled to remain in a wedlock when she is not interested.
Her decision was supported by her stepfather who helped her fight the case in court.
The Dadaji vs Rukhmabai case went on for three years. It created quite a furore both in England and India. Behramji Malabari and Pandita Ramabai came to her defence and formed the Rukhmabai Defense Committee.
The court, however, ruled in favour of Dadaji and ordered Rukhmabai to live with her husband or face six months imprisonment. Rukhmabai was however undaunted. She said she was willing to opt the latter.
But the verdict was subsequently overruled by Queen Victoria. This paved the way for the government to bring the Age of Consent Act, 1891, despite severe opposition from conservative Indians.
After legally separating from her husband in 1888, Rukhmabai moved to England to study medicine. Dr Edith Pechey of Bombay’s Cama Hospital, several activists, and fellow Indians in England helped Rukhmabai to complete her course in the London School of Medicine for Women. With their support and help, she excelled at her work.
She returned to India in 1894 and practised in Surat, Rajkot, and Bombay for the next 35 years. Her illustrious career as the first practising doctor also involved her social work for women and child rights. She passed away on September 25, 1955.
At her 153rd birthday, The Logical Indian community salutes the brave Rukhmabai and her efforts at making the conditions for women and children in the country better.