The three women pictured in this incredible photograph taken on this day in 1885 -- Anandibai Joshi of India,
Keiko Okami of Japan, and Sabat Islambouli of Syria -- each became the first licensed female doctors in their respective countries. The three were students at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania; one of the only places in the world at the time where women could study medicine.
As Mallika Rao writes in HuffPost, "If the timing doesn't seem quite right, that's understandable. In 1885, women in the U.S. still couldn't vote, nor were they encouraged to learn very much. Popular wisdom decreed that studying was a threat to motherhood." Given this, how did three women from around the world end up studying there to become doctors? The credit, according to Christopher Woolf of PRI's The World, goes to the Quakers who "believed in women’s rights enough to set up the WMCP way back in 1850 in Germantown.”
Woolf added, "It was the first women’s medical college in the world, and immediately began attracting foreign students unable to study medicine in their home countries. First they came from elsewhere in North America and Europe, and then from further afield. Women, like Joshi in India and Keiko Okami in Japan, heard about WMCP, and defied expectations of society and family to travel independently to America to apply, then figure out how to pay for their tuition and board... . Besides the international students, it also produced the nation’s first Native American woman doctor, Susan La Flesche, while African Americans were often students as well. Some of whom, like Eliza Grier, were former slaves."