Mind Matterz

Breaking the ‘Glass Ceiling’ With an ‘Iron Will’!

  • Shraddha C Sankulkar
  •    
  • 07-Mar-2019

Understanding the ‘Glass Ceiling Effect’ always intrigued me as a student of Psychology. Usually minorities in any given population suffer its effect. It is very subtle process in which an ‘invisible’ blockade prevails, as a result, the growth of the minority member is curtailed or hindered. History has witnessed the working of the ‘glass-ceiling effect’ in corporate sector, politics, professions, sports, arts, media, and also across gender. Talking about gender related ‘glass ceiling effect’, many women have faced it, especially if they where challenging the norms set by the majority population. Recently I saw a Marathi movie named ‘Anandi Gopal’. The movie is a biopic based on the life of India’s first female doctor, who also happens to be Asia’s first woman doctor too! Her extraordinary passion, along with her husband’s determination & support, helped her break the then existing prejudices regarding women emancipation in the 19th century India. Here’s the trailer of the film: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mAS_hUTOJdY With the release of the movie, the masses (mostly Marathi speaking) got to know about Dr.Anandibai Gopalrao Joshee’s struggle and passion to pursue her medical degree from United States of America.

Born on 31st March 1865, Anandi was a happy chirpy little girl, who was married to Gopal (a widower more than twice her age) at the mere age of 9! Those were the times when a woman’s identity was only limited to being a homemaker and caregiver to her children and husband. It was Anandi’s husband Mr. Gopal Joshee who was a strong supporter of woman’s education. Serving as a strict & disciplinarian postal clerk, in British Postal Service, Gopal was well read and was fairly exposed to world culture, particularly British. Unlike the men of those days, Gopal intentionally wanted to marry a girl who would pursue higher education after marriage. In the beginning he imposed his view about women emancipation on his wife, but later when Anandi herself realised the importance, she got driven by a self-motivated purpose. The self-actualization in Anandi happened when her infant baby died due to no timely medical aid. Its then when she decided to become a doctor so that she can help in saving lives. When she took admission to a missionary school, the male dominated society ployed against her initiative, but her husband Gopal, stood by her and made sure that she pursues her education fearlessly. Due to lack of funds, her further education seemed impossible. In a desperate attempt of finding funds to support his wife, her husband had agreed to convert his family to Christianity, because the Christian missionaries of those times had promised him the required funding only if he accepts Christian belief. Anandi refused to undergo such a ‘conditional’ sponsorship. The story of Anandi’s struggle then got reported in the then publishing ‘The Princeton’s Missionary Review’ magazine, which fell in the hands of a New Jersey based, generous women named Theodosia Carpenter. Carpenter wrote to Gopal Joshee, of her desire to offer help, by funding and supporting Anandi’s medical education. On hearing this the couple was delighted. Thereafter a lot of letters were exchanged between Anandi and Theodosia. In one of the letter Anandi wrote, “My designs meet with approbation of a few, say one or two thousands. They are probably youth, reformists and patriots. I am not discouraged. I must not fear but show all, what Indian ladies are.”

After completing her basic medical education from Calcutta Medical College, with the help of Mrs. Carpenter, Anandi was accepted in the Women’s Medical College, Pennsylvania which was affiliated to University of Pennsylvania. Anandi’s thesis at her final year M.D was ‘Obstetric among the Hindu Aryan Woman’. Parallel to her mission to pursue medical education, Anandi herself suffered poor health, which was primarily because she could not adapt to the cold weather and diet during her stay in U.S.A. Inspite of her ill health she earned her degree and returned back to India. On her arrival she was made physician-in-charge of the female ward in Albert Edward Hospital, Kolhapur, but unfortunately she did not live for long. She died of tuberculosis, at a young age of 22 years! Her husband felt the need of sending her ashes to USA to be laid to rest in Theodosia Carpenter’s family plot at the Poughkeepsie Cemetery in New York.

The struggle of pioneering men and women, like Anandi Gopal Joshee, were full of difficulties. But, I believe that ‘where there is a will there is a way’ and support arrives when one is determined to give your best to ‘make it happen’. Gopal Joshee, Mrs. Carpenter, the journalistic effort done in ‘The Princeton’s Missionary Review’ publication and few donations made by generous Indians, along with Anandi’s ‘iron will’helped her to break the bold & obvious barriers that blocked her growth.

In modern times, we may not see ‘bold and obvious barriers’, but there are subtle prejudices & discrimination still prevailing which hinders the growth of an individual or minority population. Such subtle invisible blockade, where one feels helplessly restricted from upscaling on one’s growth, may be a result of the prevailing ‘glass ceiling effect’. Minority population, particularly women, have been silently experiencing it in various realms of life. Since International Women’s day is just around the corner, and by drawing inspiration from the life of Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshee, here’s presenting my poem, which throws light on the ‘Glass Ceiling Effect’ which most modern women undergo even today, as they attempt to rise to new heights.

Glass Ceiling

She walks confidently,
But she has seen ‘failure’
She talks openly,
But she has gone through ‘silence’.
She sings with passion
But she has ‘faced the music’.
She expresses her art,
But with ‘pain’ in her heart.
She cares with her touch
But she has ‘suffered the blows’.


As she breaks each barrier
Like a flame burning bright,
She strikes the ‘glass ceiling’
With her Iron might!


Original Poem by -Shraddha. C. Sankulkar

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