Annie Wardlaw Jagannadham
Dr Annie Wardlaw Jagannadham with her signature Image source: Book from Wellcome Collection Library: M. Balfour and R.Young (1929), The Work of Medical Women in India. Signature from the RCP/S licentiate register
Dr Annie Wardlaw Jagannadham with her signature. From M. Balfour and R. Young (1929), The Work of Medical Women in India, London: Oxford University Press. Signature from Licentiate Register of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1890).

Dr Annie Wardlaw Jagannadham (18641894), LRCP, LRCS, and MPC, was the first Indian woman doctor to be entered onto the British Medical Register, and therefore the first Indian woman qualified to practice medicine in Britain. She was also the first Indian woman to obtain a registrable British diploma.

Annie Jagannadham was born on 30 May 1864 in Visakhapatnam, on the east coast of India. Her father, Rev. Pulipaka Jagannadham, was a Christian missionary, and her mother, Eliza Osborne, was a mission teacher. Her parentshad both converted from Hinduism.  Annie was one of six children, the eldest of whom, her brother, P. Richard Hay Jagannadham, had similarly studied medicine at Edinburgh, and later went onto be a doctor in India.

By the 1870s there was an urgent need for women doctors in India to serve the local women of the Empire. However India, similar to Britain, denied the admission of women to medical colleges. Despite some resistance, Mary Scharlieb (from Britain) and three other women were admitted to Madras Medical College in 1875, carving a new path forward for womens medical education. Less than a decade later in 1884, at the age of twenty, Jagannadham began her medical education at Madras Medical College. Like her predecessor Scharlieb, Jagannadham also studied practical midwifery under Arthur Mudge Branfoot, who was known to comment on the ‘folly and inadvisability of educating women as doctors’.

    A red fort block of the anatomy department at Madras medical college.
    Anatomy department, red fort block, Madras Medical College. Dorairajan N. An ode to my alma mater —Madras Medical College. Indian J Surg 2007;69:163.
    Title page of a clinical manual from Madras medical college.
    C Sibthorpe, Clinical manual compiled for the use of students in the Madras Medical College (1883). Wellcome Collection.

    In July 1888, Annie registered as a medical student at the Edinbugh Medical School for Women to continue her medical studies, just two years after Sophia Jex-Blake opened the school. Sophia Jex-Blake took a special interest in her Indian students, of whom Annie was the first. Here, Jagannadham completed her studies for the conjoint medical and surgical qualification of the three Scottish Colleges, informally known as the ‘Scottish Triple’ qualification (TQ). The TQ was an attractive and accessible route to acquire a colonially approved medical qualification for Indian women, which was supported via the Dufferin Fund.


    Edinburgh Medical School
    In her final year at Edinburgh Medical School for Women, Dr Annie Jagannadham acted as a demonstrator of anatomy at the Surgeons' Square School. Image source: The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Archives.


    From Annie's TQ schedule (see below), we can see that she completed a compulsory curriculum of theoretical and practical courses on medicine and surgery. She also gained clinical experiences at Madras Medical College, Government Lying-in Hospital of Madras, Madras General Hospital (including its Dispensary) and Leith Hospital in Edinburgh between 1885 and 1889. During this period, she studied under Sir Ferdinand Clarence Smith, Arthur Mudge Branfoot, and Sophia Jex-Blake. In addition, Annie also took classes, etc, taken out, but not required for this curriculum' at the Madras Medical College and Ophthalmic Hospital in Madras.

    Triple Qualification schedule, 1890, signed by Dr Jagannadham
    The Triple Qualification schedule, 1890 contains her biographical details, date of her registration as a medical student, details of courses and clinical work undertaken, and the names of her teachers. Image source: The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Archives.

      In 1890, Annie Jagannadham successfully passed her final exams with special credit and was awarded the Triple Qualification, and therefore was entitled to place her name on the medical register. Annie was the first Indian woman to complete her medical studies in the UK, and the first ever registered as a medical practitioner in Britain. That same year, she was admitted as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh), Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow). She also later passed the Examination for the Certificate of Efficiency in Psychological Medicine (Med. Psych. Certif.).


      Medical register from 1890 showing Dr Annie Jagannadham's entry.
      Dr Annie Jagannadham joined The Medical Register in 1890, as can be seen on p614 of the 1891 entry. Image source: The General Medical Council, Press Office.

        After her successful graduation from Edinburgh, Dr Jagannadham spent the following year working as a house officer at the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children, before returning to India. In 1892, she worked as a house surgeon at Cama Hospital in Mumbai (then known as Bombay), under the hospital head Edith Pechey-Phipson. Unfortunately, not long after starting to work in India, Annie contracted tuberculosis and passed away at her parents' home on 26 July 1894, surrounded by her loved ones. After her death, The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society remarked, 'she was but thirty years of age at her death; but the fresh young life had been well spent in true, though unostentatious service for Christ'.


        Facade of Cama Hospital.
        The Cama Obstetric Hospital, Bombay, 1887. ‘Photo-Tint’ by James Akerman, from Indian Engineering (1 Dec 1888). Image courtesy: University of Toronto



        Anandibai Joshi

        Dr Anandibai Joshi
        Dr Anandibai Joshi, From P. Ramabai (1888), The High-Caste Hindu Woman, Philadelphia: Rodgers print Company.


        It is also important to highlight here the other Indian woman pioneer of medical studies in the West - Anandibai Joshi (1865–1887). At the age of 18, Anandibai Joshi travelled to the United States to study medicine. In 1886, she graduated from the Womens Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, becoming the first Indian woman to receive a medical degree abroad. Although Dr Joshi was appointed as the Physician-in-Charge at the Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur, she sadly never had the opportunity to practice medicine, for she also succumbed to tuberculosis and passed away in India in 1887.


        Dr Theeba Krishnamoorthy, Guest blogger


        Further reading

        • Balfour MI and Young R. The Work of Medical Women in India. London: Oxford University Press, 1929.
        • Jayawardena K. The White Woman’s Other Burden: Western Women and South Asia During British Rule. New York: Routledge, 2014

        About the South Asian Heritage Month

        South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) first took place in 2018 and runs from the 18th of July to the 17th of August each year.

        SAHM seeks to commemorate, mark and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories, and communities.

        The month seeks to understand the diverse heritage and cultures that continue to link the UK with South Asia.

        South Asian culture has made a significant impact on Britain in various aspects, such as food, clothing, music, words, and the overall ambiance of our towns and cities. 

        It’s a beautiful display of the rich and proud South Asian heritage that has blended into the British way of life, contributing to the diversity of our nation. Observing South Asian Heritage Month provides us with an excellent chance to embrace and celebrate the history and identity of British South Asians. 

        It’s crucial to allow people to share their own stories, and this occasion offers an opportunity to showcase what being South Asian in the 21st century entails, while also reflecting on our past and how it has shaped us.

        South Asian Heritage month graphic.



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