Google on 22nd November 2017 paid homage to Rukhmabai, one among the first Indian women to practice medicine in colonial India on her 153rd Birth Anniversary, with its doodle which is illustrated by Shreya Gupta. Rukhmabai Raut (22 November 1864 – 25 September 1955) was an Indian physician. She is best known for being one of the first practising women doctors in colonial India. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1894. Doctors Kadambini Ganguly and Anandi Gopal Joshi were the first Indian women to have received medical degrees in 1886. But only Dr. Ganguly went on to practice medicine, making Raut the second woman to both receive a medical degree and practice medicine.
A Biopic Marathi film Doctor Rukhmabai directed by Anant Narayan Mahadev is almost ready to be released.
Rukhmabai was also at the center of a historical legal case which contributed to the enactment of the legislation known as “Age of Consent Act, 1891”, which raised the age of consent for married or unmarried girls in British India from ten to twelve years, as she refused to accept her marriage done in her childhood without her consent. Rukhmabai was born to a woman who herself was a victim of child marriage, married at the age of 14 and gave birth to Rukhmabai at 15, and became a widow at 17. Giving in to customs and social pressure, Rukhmabai’s mother married her daughter to Dadaji Bhikaji (19 years), when she was just 11 years old. Rukhmaibai followed her step-father’s, a doctor’s, instructions to educate herself.
Finally, after 12 years had passed, Dadaji demanded that she live with him. Rukhmabai refused on the grounds that she had had no say in the marriage and found him personally repugnant. Her husband brought a case against her and the court ruled in his favour, ordering Rukhmabai to live with her husband. It is unclear what followed, but Rukhmabai finally came to England through the exertions of an English woman doctor, Dr Pechey Pipson, who was attached to a woman hospital in Bombay. In England, Rukhmabai lived with the Liberal MP WSB McLaren and his wife, who undertook to raise funds for her medical studies.”
After finishing her studies, Rukhmabai obtained a position as Chief Medical Officer in Surat and returned to India. She served a 35-year long career in medicine. Rukhmabai fought for the cause of women’s rights throughout her career in the colonial India. Her pursuits defied social conventions and customs that discriminated against women.