Rukhmabai Raut was one of the first practicing female doctors in British India and a woman who stood against the practice of ‘Hindu Marriage’. On this day in 1864, Rukhmabai was born to Janardhan Pandurang and Jayantibai who came from a community of carpenters (suthars) in Mumbai. To honour her on her 153rd birthday, Google has dedicated its doodle showing a lady with a stethoscope around her neck, surrounded by women patients and nurses in a hospital.
At an early age of 11, Rukhmabai was married to Dadaji Bhikaji without her consent as child marriage was a common practice at those times in the country. Though she was allowed to complete her education, her husband Dadaji Bhikaji Raut gradually forced her to live with him.
In a petition to the Bombay High Court in March 1884, Dadaji plead to restore conjugal rights of the husband over his wife, and the court in its judgement directed Rukhmabai to comply or to go to prison. Rukhmabai refused and told the British India Court that she would suffer imprisonment rather than entering into conjugal relationship with her husband.
68 years after her bold step, the Hindu Marriage Act was passed in 1955 that recognised the consent of both husband and wife before entering into a conjugal relationship.
Under the pseudonym A Hindu Lady, Rukhmabai wrote numerous letters in the newspapers and won the support of many. When she expressed a wish to study medicine, a fund was created to support her travel and study in England at the London School of Medicine. She subsequently went to England and returned to India as a qualified physician and worked for many years in a women’s hospital in Rajkot.
Apart from being a doctor, Rukhmabai also worked for social causes. She wrote boldly against child marriage and women’s seclusion (purdah). On September 25, 1991, at the age of 91, Rukhmabai breathed her last.