How can there be two firsts in the same category? Read on!
I came across a book called A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor by Joe Starita, and look forward to reading it when it is published in about two months.
Curious to know more about Dr. La Flesche in the interim, I found a brief biography here. Her journey took place in a direction opposite to Anandi’s (from West to East and back), but the metaphorical terrain covered was similar, as mentioned in this brief video:
The video asks poignant questions:
- What happens when you put on different clothes, speak a new language, practice a different religion?
- Is it possible to be one with the people you are trying to rescue, or does it create a wall of distrust and resentment, no matter what your intentions?
Even as I heard these questions , I realized that one of my goals in writing Anandi’s biography has been to find the answers to these (and similar) questions. A careful reading of her letters and other documents, has offered glimpses of answers — how her situation changed her, how others reacted to her changed persona and, as the person caught in the middle, how these changes only added to her struggle.
When La Flesche died in 1915, a newspaper obituary called her achievements “great and beneficial ends over obstacle almost insurmountable.” And, the video ends with the words , “Her life shows what one woman can do as the drums of change beat on.”
These words are as true for Anandi as they are for La Flesche.
(It is unlikely that the two women met, as La Flesche enrolled in the Fall of 1886, while Anandi graduated in the Spring of 1886. Even so, definitely worth looking into.)