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Rukhmabai: Google Doodle applauds one of India's first female doctors

Married off at 11, jailed at 20, a doctor few years later, she also worked to get the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 passed

BS Web Team 

Rukhmavati
Rukhmabai. Photo: Google website

Becoming the first practicing female doctor to being at the centre of a landmark legal case that led to the in 1891, fought against all odds at a time when women in hardly had any rights to speak of. On this day in 1864, she was born to Janardhan Pandurang and 15-year-old Jayantibai, in a community of carpenters. Her mother was 17 when Pandurang died. Seven years later, she got remarried to a widower named Dr Sakharam Arjun, as stated in the Better India. Paying homage to on her 153rd birth anniversary, Google remembered her in its doodle, showing a lady with a stethoscope around her neck, surrounded by women patients and nurses at the background. was 11 when she was tied to a wedlock with 19-year-old Dadaji Bhikaji after her mother fell under the societal pressure. For the next seven years, she chose to live with her parents and pursued her education, a decision supported by her stepfather. In 1884, Bhikaji in a petition to the Bombay High Court, pleaded to restore the conjugal rights of the husband over his wife.

The court, in its judgement, directed to join her husband or face six months of imprisonment. She chose the latter. A bold step which was unimaginable as per the conservative customs of the time. This initiated one of the most publicised court cases in Bombay. The case brought the issue of and the rights of women to the fore and garnered much attention in the British press in 19th century. After the series of court cases which resulted in the affirmation of the marriage, she wrote to who overruled the court and dissolved the marriage. Following the settlement of the case, she wished to pursue medicine and fund was raised for her travel and study in London School of Medicine. came back as a qualified physician and served for next 35 years till her retirement. It was after 68 years that the in 1955 was passed in independent India that recognised the consent of both husband and wife before entering into a conjugal relationship, reported Indian Express. Other than fighting for her case, she wrote numerous pieces against and the prevalent purdah system. continued and remained active in social reforms till she breathed her last on September 25, 1955, at the age of 91.

First Published: Wed, November 22 2017. 14:45 IST
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