Welcome to the web site of To Be Useful, my biography of the first Indian woman who became a doctor.
In 1883, an unschooled Indian teenager named Anandi Joshee sailed from Calcutta to New York. Her goal was to become a doctor so she might provide medical care to her “country-sisters.” Through her achievement, she hoped to help create a culture that saw women as deserving, and capable of, equality with men.
Anandi faced opposition in India and skepticism in America. Her two champions were her husband Gopal who had tutored her and fostered her ambition, and Theodocia Carpenter, a New Jersey housewife who had initiated a correspondence three years before, offering “all possible help.” With her determination and grace Anandi won the support of all—American, British and Indian alike—who crossed her path. Three thousand people attended her 1886 graduation from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia, and Queen Victoria sent congratulations from London.
Based on original letters, diary entries, archives and newspaper accounts, the book draws a textured portrait of British India and post Civil War America and the rich relationships that thoughtful Indian, British and American individuals managed to forge by bridging cultural, political and class boundaries.
I plan to post updates about the project and about some of my interesting research finds on the blog.