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    5 Trailblazing Medical Students Of The 19th Century

    At a time when women in the U.S. couldn’t even vote, these remarkable women journeyed thousands of miles to receive an education from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, becoming some of the first licensed female doctors in their respective countries.

    Anandibai Joshi, India (1865-1887)


    Born in Kaylan, a small town in India, she was married off at 9 years old to 29 years old Postmaster Gopal Vinayak Joshi, who was a widower and a supporter of women’s education. At age 14, Anandibai decided to pursue medical studies after the tragic death of her 10-day-old son revealed the limitations of medical access for women in India. With the help of a missionary, she enrolled at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduating at age 21. She returned to India in 1886, taking up a post at the Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur but unfortunately died from tuberculosis before her career could take off

    Keiko Okami, Japan (1859-1941)


    Okami enrolled at WMCP after arriving to the United States shortly after marrying an art teacher when she was 25. She graduated in 1889 and returned to Japan where she worked at the Jikei Hospital, eventually leaving to open her own clinic. Her tireless work knew no bounds: she served as a vice-principal of Shoei Girls’ school, opened a small women’s hospital, participated in missionary work, and established a school of nursing. She eventually retired due to breast cancer.

    Sabat Islambouli, Syria (d.1941)


    Unfortunately, not much is known about Islambouli, also referred as Thabat Islambooly or Sabat al-Islambooly as she fell off the university’s radar. She was a Kurdish Jewish woman who graduated from WMCP in 1890 and moved to Cairo.

    Gurubai Karmarkar, India ( d.1932)

    Drexel University College of Medicine Archive & Special Collections / Via

    During the 1880s, she attended the WMCP while her husband studied at the Hartford Theological Seminary. She graduated in 1892, returning to Bombay (Mumbai) a year later to take up a position at the American Marathi Mission, where she worked for over thirty years. She represented India in several international missionary conferences, giving lectures on the state of women in India, her work with lepers, famine-struck children, and the “criminal caste.” The American Mission she worked at also played a crucial role during the plague outbreak in 1916. She eventually retired and donated some funds to the Lincoln House to continue providing medical care for poor and destitute people.

    Hu King Eng, China (1865-1929)

    Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections / Via

    The daughter of one of the first local Methodist clergymen in China, Eng (aka Xu Jinhong) was amongst the first high-status Chinese woman who was brought up without foot-binding. At age 18, she was sent by a missionary to the United States to receive a medical education so she could return and assist her father with managing the missionary hospital in Foochow. With financial aid from the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society, she enrolled in at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware in 1884, eventually entering WMCP in 1888 and graduating in 1892. After graduation, she worked as a surgeon’s assistant in Philadelphia. She eventually returned to China in 1895 and took charge of the newly built Woolston Memorial Hospital in Foochow, later opening a small medical school for Chinese women. In 1929, she fled to Singapore following immense Anti-Christian movements, eventually dying there from illness.

    This post is based on an article on Huffington Post.

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