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Ogino Ginko: Japan's Pioneering Ob-Gyn

Hello everyone! I'm Tina and this is Women Weekly, where I post about one wonderful woman in the STEM field every Friday. This week, I looked into the story of the first female doctor practicing Western medicine in Japan – Ogino Ginko.


Ogino Ginko was born in 1851 in Kumagaya, Saitama, Japan. She was the youngest of 7 siblings in a family of a respectable position. When Ginko was 16, she entered an arranged marriage with banker Kanichiro Inamura. From him, Ginko contracted gonorrhoea, which led to her divorcing him only 3 years into their marriage.

Being divorced and having a sexually transmitted disease caused Ginko to face a lot of shame coming from her family and society. Visiting doctors to get the infection treated was a nightmare since all of them were male and would humiliate her for this 'shameful' disease. It was this unfortunate experience, that made Ginko recognize her calling to become a doctor and help other women in similar situations to hers.

She graduated from Tokyo Women's Normal School (present-day Ochanomizu University) and with the help of her teacher, she became the first woman to enter the private medical school of Kojuin. After her graduation in 1882, she was denied from taking a medical licensing exam, effectively keeping her from practicing medicine. After 2 years of fighting for her rights, Ginko finally got to sit the exam and obtained her license. She opened the Ogino hospital in Yushima, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, becoming the first registered female doctor in Japan practicing Western medicine. She also served as a staff doctor at Meiji Gakuin University.

Ginko became interested in Christianity and was baptized in 1886. Being an active feminist, she joined a Kyofukai – a Japanese Christian Women's Organization. They fought for women's rights and safety by working to outlaw alcohol and prostitution, among other things. Ginko also participated in petitioning for the women's right to vote.

In 1890, Ginko married protestant priest Yukiyoshi Shikata and in 1894, at the height of her career, she moved to Hokkaido to live with him and help him pursue his dream of a utopian Christian society, which eventually failed. After Yukiyoshi's death, Ginko moved back to Tokyo in 1908, where she found out her skills were already outdated. Her health worsened and in 1913, she died of atherosclerosis.

Ogino Ginko was a very important woman in Japan's history, significantly contributing both to healthcare and female emancipation. Growing up in a world where women were given short names, so orders could be given to them quickly, and later changing her name for a longer one, becoming Ginko, instead of Gin, is the perfect anecdote for her personality. Never mind the shame and humiliation Ginko faced as a woman in her situation, she stayed focused and true to her beliefs, showing everybody that she wasn't afraid to fight for what was right.






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