Kadambini Ganguly was the first woman to enter Calcutta Medical College, receive training in Scotland and start a successful medical practice in India. She was also the first female speaker of the Indian National Congress.
Kadambini was born to headmaster of Bhagalpur school Braja Kishor Basu on July 18, 1861. Basu was an ardent follower of the Brahmo community. Born in Bhagalpur, Kadambini Basu, grew up in Chandsi, Bengal (now in Bangladesh). Her childhood was strongly influenced by the Bengal renaissance. Braja Kishor Basu along with Abhay Charan Mallick were dedicated to women’s liberation and co-founded the Bhagalpur Women’s Committee in 1863, which was the first women’s organisation in India.
Kadambini Basu has always struggled against the glass roof erected for women’s freedom in times of conflict due to child marriage, sati and such immoral practices. Most women are not allowed to get an education or work as a professional. Marriage, child birth and upbringing were considered their only aspirations.
Kadambini completed her initial education from Banga Mahila Vidyalaya and later continued with Bethune School. She made history as the first candidate from Bethune School to appear for the Calcutta University entrance examination and being the first woman to pass in 1878. Her success catalysed the promotion of Bethune College in 1883 to offer FA (first art) and degree courses. Kadambini was one of the first two graduates, along with Chandramukhi Basu of the entire British state.
Although Madras Medical College started admitting female students from 1875, Calcutta Medical College (CMC) denied admission to Kadambini despite her qualifications. She along with Dwarkanath Ganguly, with whom she tied the knot on 12th June 1883, had to go through a long struggle to finally enrol into the University.
When she graduated from CMC, she was awarded with a GMCB (Graduate of medical college of Bengal) diploma, instead of a MB degree. To compensate for the discrimination and gain experience in her field, she moved to the United Kingdom in 1893 and received various certificates from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. After returning to India, she worked for a while at Lady Dufferin Hospital and then started a private practice.
Kadambini’s provocative speech in the 1906’s Women’s Conference in Calcutta persuaded the Calcutta Medical College officials to revise their policies and open their doors to all female students.
Even though she was a mother of eight children and actively participated in socio-political activities, Kadambini Ganguly never compromised on her medical responsibilities. She had not denied any medical calls until her death. On 3rd October 1923, the pioneer Kadambini Ganguly breathed her last breath.
She was, is and will be an inspiration for the women out there to pursue their dreams irrespective of the innumerable hurdles faced.