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The Condition of Women in India N ightingale believed that in order to achieve a good standard of public health in India, the active participation of women was required. In a message she sent to the viceroy, while thanking him ‘‘with all our hearts and minds for what he is doing for the improvement and enlightenment of his people concerning their health,’’ she stressed that it was ‘‘the peasant women, in whom really lies the way to health, the key to health and to disease, have yet to be reached’’ (see p 388 above). This understanding of the crucial role women could play in the improvement of public health would become eventually standard development policy, but the colonial powers at the time held no such views. To compound the negative effects of official attitudes, there were numerous cultural barriers to women’s participation . Nightingale believed that women had to be encouraged to play an active role, while still observing traditional sensibilities. It was necessary, for example, for women to teach women. Girls had to be included in education at all levels. Correspondence shows Nightingale, while comparing educational opportunities for landowners’ sons with those of peasants, asking about access for girls (see pp 634 and 736 below). The provision of health care to women themselves was only one goal and a difficult one, especially for women in purdah, but broader education for women, especially of the great majority of the population in villages, was always a parallel concern. To accomplish both Nightingale hoped to ‘‘introduce native women health missioners to bring health among the native rural mothers’’ (see p 773 below). The grinding hard work that was the lot of rural women had to be alleviated . Nightingale noted the need for labour-saving devices for them. For religious reasons Indian women would not go to men doctors when they needed care, hence the necessity to train women doctors. As Nightingale explained in arguing c1888 for a new women’s hospital , nothing would induce Hindu or Muslim women in purdah, and many Indian women not in purdah, ‘‘to allow a medical man to / 717 approach them.’’1 Separate facilities indeed were required: dispensaries , clinics and hospitals. Nightingale sought the collaboration of other able, committed women. Much material on her collaboration with leading women has already appeared in Women. Here we relate women collaborators on India, notably Dr Mary Scharlieb,2 the first British woman doctor to practise in India; Lady Dufferin,3 vicereine and the founder of an association to provide medical care for women, and Lady Grant-Duff, wife of the governor of Madras 1881-86 and a crucial supporter of Scharlieb’s work. Among other British women collaborators was Mary Carpenter, a social reformer who visited India for considerable periods and wrote on it. Gradually we will see Indian nationals themselves emerge in the correspondence . Thus there are references to Dr Ganguly, the first Bengali woman to become a doctor, who worked in the Dufferin Fund Hospital. Dr Scharlieb was a collaborator for decades. She had gone with her barrister husband in 1866 to Madras, where she studied at the Madras Medical College. She did further work at London University, where she passed brilliantly. To the grand duchess of Baden Nightingale described Scharlieb’s mission in glowing terms: Her object is to return to practise in the zenanas [women’s quarters] at Madras. She is so impressed with the hopeless uneducated state, overfed and lost in laziness of the richer women in the harems, who may see no man, and with the half-starved or wholly starved, violently overworked and equally uneducated state of the poorer Indian women. Scharlieb had had ‘‘four years’ medical training at Madras,’’ Nightingale continued, ‘‘and a further three years’ course’’ at London University : ‘‘I have been for just twenty years working for India, an enormous subject, and I just hail this sort of devoted woman.’’ She contrasted Scharlieb with the ‘‘many ladies [who] come to us at our training school asking just to ‘pick up’ a little among our nurses at the hospital , as if that would qualify them to go out and practise among the women in India, where no doctor can be admitted.’’4 1 From a letter 1888, in Women (8:64). 2 See the biographical sketch in Appendix A. 3 See Gourlay, Florence Nightingale and the Health of the Raj 237-44; Margaret I. Balfour and Ruth Young, The Work of Medical Women in India; Daniel Sanjiv Roberts, ‘‘‘Merely Birds of...


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