Google Doodle has marked Dr. Rakhmabai Raut’s 153rd birthday. She was an Indian woman who became one of the first practicing women doctors in India.

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Rukhmabai was born on 22 November 1864 to Jayantibai and Janardhan.Her father passed away early on, and Rukhmabai was married at the age of 11 to Dadaji Bhikaji who was 19 at the time. However, she continued to live in her maternal home according to the customs of the time. A change in Rukhmabai’s fortunes came when her mother remarried: Rukhma’s step-father, Dr. Sakharam Arjun, who was a professor at the Grand Medical college in Bombay. He encouraged her to study.

Dadaji wanted her to move into his house and she did not want to. When Rukhma refused to move into her husband’s home and her stepfather took her side. Rukhmabai’s argument was that she had been a child when was wed, she couldn’t possibly be expected to have consented to the marriage.

Rukhmabai and her husband were under a long drawn battle at the court and their divorce was labeled as the first case in India and was one of the most influential and publicized trials. The court told Rukhmabai to comply or to go to prison. Rukhmabai, naturally, refused.

At the same time, a series of articles began to appear in the newspapers, talking about the importance of women’s rights. They appeared under the byline: “A Hindu Lady”. One of the pieces condemned the practice of child marriage, describing how it had “destroyed the happiness” of the writer’s life, dooming her to seclusion, and condemning her “aspirations to rise above (her) ignorant sisters”. Later, it was discovered that Rukhmabai herself was the author of these pieces.

From 1885 to 1888, legal proceedings went on and Rukhmabai decided to appeal to Queen Victoria for help, and the marriage was dispersed in July of 1988. Her case would influence the passage of the Age of Consent Bill a few years later, which outlawed child marriages.

Rukhma, meanwhile, was ready for the next stage of her life. With encouragement from her step-father. Supported by Edith Pechey Phipson, the British director of Bombay’s Cama Hospital, Rukhmabai underwent an English language course and went to England in 1889 to study at the London School of Medicine for Women. She also obtained qualifications at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Brussels before graduating in 1894.

Rukhmabai returned to India and worked for 35 years until her retirement in 1929 at a hospital in Surat, followed by Rajkot.

Her grandniece Mohini Varde wrote,  Dr. Rakhmabai: An Odyssey, an inspiring book about her life.

Google Doodle has made an apt tribute to such a strong and inspiring woman.

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