Lady Doctors: The Untold Stories of India’s First Women in Medicine – Kavitha Rao


‘… a rich satisfying read about a set of extraordinary women’ – Manu S. Pillai

‘Kavitha Rao’s Lady Doctors is several things all at once: a richly satisfying read about a set of extraordinary women; a positively enlightening account of how ordinary girls, against the odds and through sheer—even painful— determination, became path breakers; and a much-needed reminder that Indian history is as much the story of understated, often forgotten pioneers as it is of our run-of-the-mill heroes. I learnt much from Lady Doctors, and drew great joy from its pages.’ –Manu S. Pillai.

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At a time when medicine is a highly sought-after career for Indian women, it is hard to imagine what it was like for the pioneers. The story of how firmly they were bound in fetters of family, caste and society, and how fiercely they fought to escape, needs to be told. In Lady Doctors, Kavitha Rao unearths the extraordinary stories of six women from the 1860s to the 1930s, who defied the idea that they were unfit for medicine by virtue of their gender. From Anandibai Joshi, who broke caste rules by crossing an ocean, to Rukhmabai Raut, who escaped a child marriage, divorced her husband and studied to be a doctor; from Kadambini Ganguly, who took care of eight children while she worked, to child widow Haimabati Sen, who overcame poverty and hardship—these women had a profound and lasting impact. And in their forgotten lives lie many lessons for modern women.

In truth, the compelling stories of these radical women have been erased from our textbooks and memories, because histories have mostly been written by men, about men. In an immensely readable narrative, and with impeccable research, Lady Doctors rectifies this omission.

About the Author

Kavitha Rao is a freelance journalist and writer. She lives in Bengaluru. She can be found on Twitter at @kavitharao, where she has over 11,000 followers. Kavitha has spoken at numerous literary fests, including The Times Lit Fest in Bengaluru, the Tata Lit Fest in Mumbai, and the Kasauli Lit Fest. She has also taught journalism at several colleges including the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media in Bangalore, Sophia College in Mumbai, and the Times College of Journalism in Mumbai.


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