Article Title

Women doctors and women's hospitals in Madras with notes on the related influencing developments in India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries


At least 30 years before qualified women doctors from Britain, America and Australia came to India to assist in the health care of women, Mary Ann Dacomb Scharlieb living in Madras (now Chennai) graduated with an LMS (Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery) diploma from the Madras Medical College in 1875. She then proceeded to London to earn an MBBS degree from the newly started Medical School for Women. She returned to Madras after completing advanced training in operative midwifery at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus, Vienna, Austria in 1884. The Government of Madras established a women’s hospital in Moore’s Garden – the Royal Victoria Hospital for Caste and Gosha Women (RVH) – which she superintended from 1884 to 1887; the hospital was shifted to its current location in Triplicane, Chennai in 1890. Doctors in Madras, such as Ida Sophia Scudder and Muthulakshmi Reddy, played a major role in taking women’s health care to new heights. While chronicling the lives and works of pioneer women doctors of Madras, this note also enunciates details of the establishment of premier women’s hospitals in Madras: (1) the Maternity Hospital (MH) in Egmore and (2) the RVH in Triplicane, in the backdrop of an overall context of women’s health management in the rest of India, triggered by the Dufferin Association and its sprigs, the Association of Medical Women in India and Women’s Medical Service for India. The MH, at least four decades older than the RVH, performed remarkably on many a score: for example, in starting of a midwife training school and the Diploma in Gynaecology and Obstetrics programme, the latter setting the trend for the rest of India. The MH pioneered in developing a facility to treat infants and children as well in 1949, thanks to the efforts of pediatrician S. T. Ãchar, thus earning a reputation as the ‘Egmore model’ in medical circles. This note is an appreciation and a token of gratitude to those unforgettable heroines, who worked against odds, including facing resentment and resistance from some Indian men of status and influence.


history, women doctors, late 19th and early 20th centuries, India

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