Dr. Clara Swain, first missionary doctor and founder women's hospital in Asia

American Dr. Clara Swain,founder first women hospital in Asia.
 In the colonial India, in 1700s and 1800s,  the natives were against the use of  western medicine and preferred Ayurvedic and other native medicines for cure of diseases, etc. Some were good and some were not. As the Indian  women lived in seclusion, attending on them by male doctors to treat them  was a problem. The arrival of lady missionary doctors or women trained in western medicine, to some extent eased the situation. As for the  new western women missionaries, working in India was a grueling experience, considering its  hot climate, tropical heat, monsoon rains, mosquitoes, wild animals, poisonous snakes, etc.,  not to speak of loneliness and depression being in  a strange land with different religious faith.  Driven by commitment and vision to serve the natives, many  western women missionaries arrived in India. Of course, part of the purpose was to spread Christianity among the natives. One among them was Dr. Clara Swain, MD., an American, first missionary lady doctor in the world and the founder of first women hospital in Asia.
American Dr. Clara Swain, first lady doctor missionary in the world,en.wikipwdia.org

Dr. Clara A. Swain (18 July 1834 - 25 December 1910)  a physician and missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church has the distinction of being the world's first missionary doctor in the non-Christian part of the world. Besides, in 1870s  she was responsible for establishing  the first hospital in India in the orient for women and children.

Swain  born in Elmira, Chemung County, New York and raised in Castile, New York was of Irish decent and her parents were  John Swain, and Clarisa Seavey. At an early age she took to religious studies and in her early 20s developed interest in medicine  to help the sick and the poor and had her early training in medicine under
Dr. Cordelia A. Greene at the Castile Sanatorium. 

Graduated from  the  Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 3 1869, under the direction of the Methodist mission in the USA  she left for Bareilly in India. In those days,  native women refused the service of male doctors and they had to be taken care of by the  nurses who could not meet their medical needs.  So, the Methodist Mission needed a lady doctor to attend to  the Indian women, especially high caste women who lived in seclusion.

For the next 25 years or so, with brief sojourns in the middle  since her arrival in India  on November 20 1970, she had done pioneering work in the area of women's and children's health care at a time when India was under the spell of oppressive British rule.

No sooner had she joined the mission in Bareilly than she began her practice and soon got a lot of women patients. It became imperative for her to train  a small group of native women in various aspects of medicine and treatments  - anatomy, physiology, and materia medica.  After sufficient training in medical education and practice,  she conducted exams along with other professionals and sent out the first batch of 13 trained women in April 1873 with a bonafide certificate for practice in all diseases.  In 1890 the Christian College of Medicine was started at her initiative with a view to giving formal education in medicine.

As her work became hectic beyond her ability to handle, she wanted to take time off and spent some years back in the USA and later she arrived in Bombay in 1880 to resume her work. In early 1900s she convinced  the Nawob of Rampur to allow her to open medical facilities in his land and finally got more than 45 acres of land free. Her small dispensary on the new land grew into a hospital in a new building in January 1974  called Clara Swain Hospital,  the "first hospital for women in India, perhaps in Asia. Nearly 3000 patients were treated in the first year and her name had spread far and wide. For ten years she was a court physician in the Princely state of Rajputana (beginning in 1885). In the 1890s,  at her initiative, the Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, Punjab  was founded to provide formalized medical courses instead of mere training.

Dr. Clara Swain's grave in Grace cemetery, Castile, NY. www.findagrave.com
 While serving in India, she endured all kinds of hardships, including a near death situation when facing floods and riding an elephant. She had a soft corner for  native Indian women which the conservative Indian society did not treat well. Anyway, in the history of evangelism, Dr. Swain was the first  American woman messenger of medical mission through which she touched the hearts of thousands of Indian women in the by-gone era. Her medical expertise was put to use in the true spirit of Gospel of love and compassion, transcending land, religion and ethnicity.

Dr. Swain spent the last year of her life in Castile, New York where she died on December 25, 1910 due to old age. She is buried at Grace Cemetery, Castile, New York. 

1869-1896 are dates of her service in India.Note: Book: 'A Glimpse of India' ; A collection of letters of Dr. Clara A. Swain, the First Medical Missionary to India of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.