Google India on Wednesday paid homage to Rukhmabai, one among the first Indian women to practice medicine in colonial India, with a doodle.
“Today’s Doodle by illustrator Shreya Gupta shows the courageous doctor among her patients, doing the dedicated work of a skilled physician,” said Google’s blog post on its doodles.
But Rukhmabai has another feather in her cap. If women in modern India can assert their rights of consent, it is due to Rukhmabai refusing to recognise her marriage and the case filed by her husband thereafter.
Born on this day in 1864 in Bombay, Rukhmabai was the only daughter of Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibai. She lost her father when she was eight years old and was married off at the 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 step-father even after marriage. Seven years later, Dadaji moved court seeking it to order his wife to live with him. Rukhmabai refused to move in with her husband stating that a woman cannot be compelled to stay in a wedlock when she is not interested. Her decision was supported by her step-father who helped her fight the case in court. The Dadaji vs. Rukhmabai case that went on for three years triggered a debate in both England and India. The verdict went in favour of Dadaji. The court ordered Rukhmabai to live with her husband or face six months imprisonment. A brave Rukhmabai said she was willing to opt the latter.
The verdict was subsequently overruled by Queen Victoria. This prompted the government to bring the Age of Consent Act, 1891, despite opposition from conservative Indians.
Rukhmabai legally separated from her husband in 1888 and moved to England to study medicine. She got support from Dr. Edith Pechey of Bombay’s Cama Hospital, activists, and fellow Indians in England to complete her course in the London School of Medicine for Women. She returned to India in 1894 and practised in Surat, Rajkot, and Bombay for the next 35 years. She passed away on September 25, 1955.
Incidentally, Google has created two more doodles today. Users in Russia will be seeing a slideshow depicting the life and times of writer Vladimir Dal, who compiled the Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language.