Book Review – Radical Spirits: India’s First Woman Doctor and Her American Champions


Anandi - Wikipedia

Starting with the tombstone inscription in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, “first Brahmin woman who came to America to become a doctor”, this tale of two countries and two females – Anandi-bai Joshee of India and her “adopted aunt” Theodocia Carpenter of America captures your attention and holds it until the very end.

Anandi-bai Joshee is quite popular in India and she is celebrated as the “first Indian woman doctor”.  What is not that well-known is the role Theodocia and other well-wishers played in it.  From the beginning, in her correspondence with Anandi, Theodocia is extremely supportive of Anandi’s dreams to become a doctor, saying, “The field of labor which you would choose for yourself is very honorable: and one in which more of your sex is needed. It is also a very responsible one.”

Nandini Patwardhan has done meticulous research across cities in multiple continents to bring us this detailed account of Anandi’s quest to become a doctor serving Indian women. Her descriptions of the times and places in which Anandi lived are vivid and give the readers context.

Anandi’s life was cut short before she could actually practice medicine. But her life is a beacon for all young women who want to achieve their dreams even when the obstacles seem unsurmountable.  Kudos to Nandini for bringing Anandi’s story to life through this book, and in doing so highlighting what is possible with a mentor-mentee relationship that is at once caring, tender, and supportive.

You can buy Radical Spirits from here.

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