Oct 192020
 

Royal College of Physicians, 11 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ

Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians

When Kadambini Ganguly received her BA from the University of Calcutta in 1883, she became the first woman to graduate in India. This was monumental, since Calcutta Medical College had initially refused to admit her because of her gender. In 1893, she travelled to Edinburgh and studied for the Scottish Triple at the Royal College of Physicians. At the time, travelling to the UK to study was limited to a small but growing wealthy elite in India. At the college, she took courses in medicine, therapeutics, surgery, anatomy, midwifery, and medical jurisprudence. Ganguly continuously challenged society’s expectations of her. Her decision to study medicine abroad as a married woman provoked backlash from the upper-caste Bengali community, and when she received her diploma she was the only successful woman candidate in her cohort. When Ganguly returned to India, she practiced obstetrics and gynecology at Lady Dufferin Hospital in Calcutta, combining her medical work with political activism. She was one of six women delegates to the fifth session of the Indian National Congress in 1889, and organized a Women’s Conference in Calcutta in the aftermath of the 1906 partition of Bengal (which separated the majority Muslim East from the largely Hindu West).

Kadambini Ganguly
Kadambini Ganguly
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Oct 192020
 

11 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD

11 George Square today
11 George Square today

The Edinburgh Indian Association (EIA), founded in 1883, was one of the first Indian Associations in Britain. Between 1911 and the 1950s, the EIA rented rooms at 11 George Square, which “contained a debating hall for 100 people, a dining-hall serving Indian dishes, a library, a billiard room with two full-size tables and one ping pong table.” Containing members from across India and its diaspora, it radicalized students who later became key leaders in the British Guiana East Indian Association, the Non-European Unity Movement in South Africa, and the Indian National Congress itself. Edinburgh alum Kesaveloo Goonam Naidoo recounts that the EIA: “had the unique privilege of listening to the Nobel Laureate, Sir CV Rama. His speech went over my head, but heck, it felt good just being there. Another illustrious visitor was the Right Honourable Srinivasa Sastri, who […] was very unpopular among the Indian students [for his pro-British oratory] and became even more so when he came to Edinburgh to receive the freedom of the city at a time when thousands of Indian freedom fighters languished in British jails.” As the Home Rule movement grew in India, the EIA “became active in this field” and was monitored by Scotland Yard for revolutionary discussions.

Emblem of the Edinburgh Indian Association in January 1920.
Emblem of the Edinburgh Indian Association in January 1920.
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