Historical Figures

Ogino Ginko, Japan's first female doctor

First woman to obtain the title of doctor in Japan, Ogino Ginko (1851 – 1913) is committed to women's rights and opens a hospital specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.

Birth of a vocation

Ogino Ginko was born on March 3, 1851 into a wealthy peasant family in the province of Musashi, today hui prefecture of Saitama, Japan. At sixteen, she was married to the son of a bank manager. When she was nineteen, her husband gave her a sexually transmitted infection, probably gonorrhea.

The episode left a lasting mark on her. At the time, we did not know how to treat this infection and Ginko had to stay in the hospital for a long time, with an illness considered shameful. The doctors, all men, treat the patients rudely and with no respect for their modesty. At the hospital, Ginko talks with the other patients and realizes that many women, embarrassed to be examined by men, prefer to keep their illnesses quiet.

Following his illness, Ginko makes two decisions:marriage with an unfaithful man, and the resulting humiliation does not suit him; and she will become a doctor herself, to help women in similar circumstances.

The first female doctor in Japan

Neither of his two decisions is conventional. If Ogino Ginko's mother supports her for her divorce, her whole family has a lot of trouble accepting her decision to become a doctor. Ginko does not allow himself to be diverted from his objective. Finding a school that accepts her and successfully attending conferences takes her years, but she eventually does.

Ginko first studied at a women's school in Tokyo, before entering the private medical school in Kojuin. She is the only woman there, plagued by hostility, harassment and sexism from her school friends. She suffers regular insults, and pressure to make her abandon her studies, but Ginko holds on. Even when, as an intern, his first patient refuses to be treated by a woman; far from being discouraged, she manages to convince him to reconsider his decision.

Ginko graduated in 1882, but had yet to obtain a license to practice medicine from the Meiji administration to open his own clinic. Thanks to the support of doctors and her unfailing tenacity, she obtained it in 1885, becoming the first female doctor in Japan.

Doctor career

True to its determination to help women, Ogino Ginko opened the Ogino Hospital in Yushima, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, which attracted many patients. From 1889, she also took a job in the women's school of Meiji Gakuin University.

In 1890, Ginko married Yukiyoshi Shikata, who was Protestant. At his side, she gets closer to Christian circles and converts. Joining women's Christian circles, she became involved in social causes and campaigned for women's rights, including the right to practice medicine. In particular, she participated in the publication of a petition against the ban on women attending parliamentary assemblies.

Ogino Ginko died of atherosclerosis in 1913, at the age of 62.