This is a biographical novel about Ginko Ogino, Japan's first female doctor. Ogino was born to a wealthy farming family in 1851, a time when Japanese society was still severely male-dominated. She married into an equally wealthy family but got divorced when she contracted gonorrhea?at the time thought to be incurable?from her husband. Finding that she could not bear the humiliation of being treated by a male doctor, she resolved to become a physician herself. She left home, disowned by her family, and came to Tokyo to achieve this dream.
Undaunted by the various obstacles placed in her way by students at the all-male medical school she attended, Ogino studied hard, paying tuition by working as a private tutor. She graduated with phenomenal grades, only to face a new hurdle: as a woman, she was barred from taking the qualifying exam that would enable her to practice medicine. She applied to take the test many times, but her applications were consistently rejected. Finally in 1885, thanks to the good offices of a high-ranking army doctor acquaintance, she was given permission to take the exam. She passed, becoming Japan's first female physician. After that, she started an obstetrics and gynecology practice in Tokyo.
However, as Ogino became more and more aware of the hardships faced by women through her unique position as a women's doctor, she began to recognize that there were limits to what she could achieve on her own, and she turned to Christianity and began participating in social movements. She remarried to a Christian activist 13 years her junior, Koreyuki Shikata, and moved to Hokkaido with him before eventually returning to Tokyo (after his untimely death) and opening another medical practice.
This fascinating and compelling book explores Ogino's life as well as explaining the system of education for women and aspiring doctors in 19th-century Japan.