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April 8, 2024

Each Woman in This 1885 Image Was the First Licensed Female Doctor in Their Countries: India, Japan, Syria

This photo taken on October 10, 1885, of three genius women at the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia. A small reminder that they were capable of achieving great heights, remember in 1885 not too many women were leaders in many fields.

A photo taken in 1885 of Anandibai Joshee, who graduated in 1886; Kei Okami who graduated in 1889; and Sabat Islambooly, who graduated in 1890. Photo courtesy Legacy Center Archives, Drexel College of Medicine.

A very important aspect of this photo is the diversity it depicts. These women belong to three different countries - India, Japan, and Syria and are dressed up in their traditional outfits.

All of them moved to the U.S. to study medicine and become doctors despite the boundaries set for them. It wasn’t easy for women to step out of their homes, away from family friends and community, but these women broke the stereotypes and landed in a new country to gain knowledge and earn respect!

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) was the first medical school in the world to grant women the M.D. degree. It was founded in 1850 in Philadelphia by a group of progressive Quakers and a businessman.

WMCP educated more Black and Native American female doctors than any other predominantly white medical college in the 19th century. The school also trained many future medical missionaries to India and China. Some notable alumni of WMCP include: Kei Okami, Ann Preston, Sabat Islambouli.

The school was originally called the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1867, it changed its name to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1970, the college began admitting men and was renamed the Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP)


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