N4L 131: "Radical Spirits" by Nandini Parwardhan

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By Janet Perry, Janet Perry: blogger, and Nonfiction book lover. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

SUMMARY

Radical Spirits: India’s First Woman Doctor and Her American Champions is Nandini Patwardhan’s first full-length biography. “Based on original letters, university archives, and newspaper accounts, Radical Spirits draws a textured portrait of the relationships that Indian, British, and American individuals forged by bridging cultural and class boundaries.” (from the back cover)

Born into a high-caste Indian family, Anandi becomes a nine-year-old child bride. Just a few years later, she loses her own first child shortly after giving birth. Now painfully aware of millions of other Indian women who have had a similar experience, she makes the radical decision to become India's first woman doctor. Still a teenager in 1883, Anandi sails alone from Calcutta to New York to attend a medical school for women. In America, she encounters kindness, cruelty, and curiosity about her dark skin, vegetarian diet, Hindu religion, and unusual wardrobe. Nonetheless, Anandi presses single-mindedly toward her goal. Not only does she want to do good among her own people but she also aches to “disprove the false doctrine which keeps Hindoo women in ignorance and degradation.”

KEY PEOPLE

  • Anandi Joshee - a reluctant though brilliant student who, after losing a child, transforms into a fiercely focused young woman bent on alleviating the widespread poor health care suffered by Indian women
  • Gopal Joshee – husband of Anandi; unflinching in his goal to educate his wife; postal worker in India under British rule
  • Nandini Padwardhan – author by avocation; arrives in the United States from India in the early 80s when immigrants are subjected to vaccinations, strict health checks, and even quarantines
  • Charles Eliot – President of Harvard University who believes female education is bad for both women and men
  • Theodocia Carpenter - Anandi’s pen pal American friend who acts as mentor and adoptive aunt while sharing a deep attraction to the tenets of Spiritualism
  • Google Books – invaluable resource for biographers such as Patwardhan

QUOTES FROM PARWARDHAN

  • “Gopal hoped to create a remarkable and irrefutable example by educating a female, thus establishing his claim that women were capable of learning and thinking.”
  • “Gopal and Anandi became equal partners in a shared mission—to become empowered in order to ease the burdens of women’s lives.”
  • “The Americans who came to know them [the Joshees] were, in their own ways, radical [spirits] as well.”

BUY Radical Spirits: India’s First Woman Doctor and Her American Champions

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Watch this short video for an overview of Anandi Joshee’s courageous life. (Spoiler alert!)
  • Read this blog post to find out which feature on the planet Venus is named after the heroine of the book.

BUY Radical Spirits: India’s First Woman Doctor and Her American Champions

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Watch this short video for an overview of Anandi Joshee’s courageous life. (Spoiler alert!)
  • Read this blog post to find out which feature on the planet Venus is named after the heroine of the book.

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