Anandibai Joshee was the first Indian woman to qualify as a medical doctor. She was also the first Maharashtrian woman to pursue higher studies abroad. When she received the medical degree in March 1886 from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, she was barely twenty-one. Upon her return to India, she passed away in Pune a year later, a month short of her twenty-second birthday.
In 1883, Anandibai travelled to the United States, to the home of Mrs Theodicia Carpenter with whom she had established correspondence a few years earlier. With the support of the Carpenters, Anandibai was able to secure admission to the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, PA where she obtained her medical degree in two years - an astonishing achievement in an era that refused even simple literacy to most Indian women!
Her studies, and the pace at which she completed her course was exacting and exhausting; and she had to summon all her inner reserves of strength to soldier on till the end. Already in poor health when she travelled from India to the US, this did not improve: Dean Bodley of the WMCP looked after Anandibai personally when she was too ill to live on her own. The strain of mastering English was so great that she even temporarily forgot Marathi. But she gained in maturity and wisdom, her intellect honed and sharpened by the intensity of her studies. She could lucidly articulate and convey her thoughts to large audiences. As Anandibai grew in intellectual stature she became more respectfully independent in her thoughts and actions vis-a-vis her husband and was unafraid to take painful decisions. She could publicly defend herself and her nation and was very clear as to what she wanted to do in the future.