Every year women are taking giant leaps in the field of education, leaving men behind in terms of performance in school and college level exams. But this was not the case about 150 years ago. With the advent of Social Reform societies like Arya Samaj and Brahmo Samaj women education came to forefront. Numerous schools were opened exclusively for female students.
Kadambini Ganguly along with Chandramukhi Basu enjoys the honor of being first women in India to have a graduate degree. Kadambini Ganguly (born Basu, in 1861) was the daughter of Brajakishore Basu, a Brahmo Samaj leader. It was in the year 1878 that she took her first stride towards what would become a giant leap for education of women in India. She along with Sarala Das became first female candidates to sit for the Calcutta university Entrance Examination. By becoming first female student of Calcutta University, she also added accolades to the University itself which became the first university in British Empire to open its doors to women. Oxford University began to admit female students in 1879 and Cambridge began in 1881.
Kadambini got married soon after her graduation to Dwarkanath Ganguly who was a school teacher and an ardent supporter of female education. On her husband’s encouragement, Kadambini entered Medical College in 1884 and was awarded G.B.M.C. (Graduate of Bengal medical College in 1886. She became the first south Asian female to become a doctor.
In her personal life. Kadambini was known to be devoted wife and loving mother to five children. Kadambini’s achievements however did not stop here and she soon left for Britain, leaving her children in her sister’s care, to earn three Licentiate Post Graduate Diploma in Medicine and Surgery from the colleges of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin.
After her return from Britain, she began to practice obstetrics and gynecology in Lady Dufferin Hospital in Calcutta. As a doctor she was known to be successful in her practice.
Kadambini did not limit herself to professional success and became an active participant in socila reform movements on India. In 189, she became first Indian woman to address and open session of Indian national Congress. She died in 1923 at the age of 62.
Looking at her history and all that she achieved in a time when there was not much awareness about equality and rights for woman, one can say that she was a star who shone brightly to show a path to the coming generations. Kadambini was privileged in a way to have been born, brought up and get married in Brahmo Samaj which was one of the pioneers of female education in India. But to have achieved so much still requires grit and strength.
Apart from her strength, Kadambini Ganguly was also famous for her compassion and her desire to champion the cause of downtrodden. She devoted her life to emancipation of women in India and national struggle for freedom. Not many are aware of the achievements of this lesser known star but she certainly is one of the earliest role models, an Indian woman and for that matter an Indian man can look upto.
What I have learned from her story and what I intend to imbibe is her grit, perseverance and her strength to achieve her true potential while also retaining a kind and compassionate heart.