Ida S. Scudder

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Ida S. Scudder as a young woman

Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder (December 9, 1870 – May 23, 1960) was a third-generation American medical missionary in India of the Reformed Church in America. She dedicated her life to the plight of Indian women and the fight against bubonic plague, cholera and leprosy.[1][2] In 1918, she started one of Asia's foremost teaching hospitals, the Christian Medical College & Hospital, Vellore, India.[3]

Early life[edit]

She born to Dr. John Scudder Jr. and his wife, Sophia (née Weld), part of a long line of medical missionaries (see Scudders in India). The granddaughter of Rev. Dr. John Scudder Sr., as a child in India, she witnessed famine, poverty and disease. She was invited by Dwight Moody to study at his Northfield Seminary in Massachusetts, where she earned a reputation for prayers.[1]

Ida initially expected to get married and settle down and to have a family in the United States after seminary.

In 1890 Ida went back to India to help her father when her mother was ailing at the mission bungalow at Tindivanam, Madras Province in India.

Ida had expressed a resolve not to become a doctor – medical missionary.

But, during that stay, she had the enlightening experience of not being able to help three women who were struggling in their childbirth during delivery time.

These women did not like to be treated by male doctors due to their orthodox habits of not exhibiting themselves before men...

As there was no female gynaecologist or even a female general physician, these three women could not be treated properly and they died in one night.

This experience of the death of three women due to lack of a female doctor convinced Ida Sophia that God wanted her to become a female physician to help the women of India.

She stayed single to fulfill her mission. She never married.

She graduated from Cornell Medical College, New York City in 1899, as part of the first class at that school that accepted women as medical students.

She then headed back to India, fortified with a $10,000 grant from a Mr. Schell, a Manhattan banker, in memory of his wife. With the money, she started a tiny medical dispensary and clinic for women at Vellore, 75 miles from Madras.

Her father died in 1900, soon after she arrived in India. In two years, she treated 5,000 patients.

She opened the Mary Taber Schell Hospital in 1902.


Ida Scudder realized that she would be foolish to go on alone in her fight to bring better health to South India's women, so she decided to open a medical school for girls only.

Skeptical males said she would be lucky to get three applicants; actually she had 151 the first year (1918), and had to turn many away subsequently.

At first, the Reformed Church in America was the main backer of the Vellore school, but after Dr. Scudder agreed to make it coeducational, it eventually gained the support of 40 missions.

Of 242 students today, 95 are men.[5]

Christian Medical College, Vellore[edit]

Ida S. Scudder with Mahatma Gandhi, 1928

In 1928 ground was broken for the "Hillsite" medical school campus on 200 acres (0.8 km²) at Bagayam, Vellore. In 1928, Mahatma Gandhi visited the medical school. She traveled a number of times to the United States to raise funds for the college and hospital, raising a total in the millions. In 1945, the college was opened to men as well as women. In 2003 the Vellore Christian Medical Center was the largest Christian hospital in the world, with 2000 beds, and its medical school is now one of the premier medical colleges in India.



One day in 1953, aged 82, she was at "Hilltop", her bungalow at Kodaikanal, and opened a stack of letters and telegrams. Her name is a famous one in India. A letter once reached her addressed simply, "Dr. Ida, India." But the mail was heavier than usual because friends around the world were congratulating her on winning the Elizabeth Blackwell Citation from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, as one of 1952's five outstanding women doctors.[7]

She died, aged 89, at her bungalow.[8][9]

A stamp issued on August 12, 2000, as part of centenary celebrations of Christian Medical College, depicts the college chapel, the motivating monument of the medical college and hospital, symbolising the ethos of the institution. The First-day cover portrays Dr Ida Scudder, who founded the institute in 1900, working for the medical requirements of pregnant women.[10]




  • Graves Dan (2005) Glimses, issue #113, Christian History Institute, retrieved 9/8/2007 Ida Scudder, A Woman Who Changed Her Mind
  • Legacy and Challenge: The Story of Dr. Ida B. Scudder, published by the Scudder Association [1]
  • Ida S. Scudder of Vellore: The Life Story of Ida Sophia Scudder by Dr. M. Pauline Jeffery, Wesley Press 1951
  • With: Ida S. Scudder and her gleam : memorial supplement, 1960–1961, by M. Pauline Jeffery. Vellore : Christian Medical College of Vellore, 1961
  • Dr. Ida by Dorothy Clarke Wilson 1959
  • The Doctor Who Never Gave Up by Carolyn Scott 1975
  • A Thousand Years In Thy Sight by Dorothy Jealous Scudder (1984) Chapters 25-27
  • Ida Scudder: Healing Bodies Touching Hearts by Janet Benge and Geoff Benge 2003
  • Dr. Ida Skudder by Veena Gavhankar, Raj Hans Prakashan, 1983 Marathi.

The things that changed her path was not able to save some Hindu and Muslim women who died due to child birth


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Dorothy Clark. The Story of Dr. Ida Scudder of Vellore, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. Full text (1959), p. 18
  2. ^ The Scudder Association Scudder family genealogy site
  3. ^ Sound-icon1.png Hear Dr. Ida Scudder tell her own story Archived 2007-06-23 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Graves Dan (2005) Glimses, issue #113, Christian History Institute, retrieved 9/8/2007 Ida Scudder, A Woman Who Changed Her Mind Archived 2007-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Christian Medical College (2005) Ida S. Scudder profile, Christian Medical College Archived 2007-06-23 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2015-05-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "A Family Tradition", Time Magazine (February 16, 1953)
  8. ^ biographical information on ISS and the Scudder family, see the inventory for Ida Sophia Scudder, MC 205, Scudder, Ida S. 1870-1960. Papers, 1843-1976 (inclusive), 1888-1960 (bulk) (84-M159) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, February 1985 Ida Scudder paperws Archived 2012-02-14 at
  9. ^ Notable American Women, The Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984).
  10. ^ Theme stamps mark this year's Independence Day[permanent dead link], Financial Express (September 12, 2000)

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Other sources[edit]