Ginko Ogino deserves to be better known — especially now.

She was Japan’s first licensed female doctor. What she went through to earn that distinction is the theme of the 1993 novel "Hanauzumi" ("Beyond the Blossoming Fields") by Junichi Watanabe (1933-2014), who was himself a doctor. Ogino lived from 1851 to 1913 and obtained her medical license in 1885. "How little has changed," we imagine her saying, returned to life and seeing Tokyo Medical University's systematic downgrading of female applicants' scores.

She was a remarkable woman — an astonishing woman. She was born into a wealthy peasant family in Musashino Province, today's Saitama Prefecture. What would her fate have been, we wonder, had her philandering banker-husband not given her a dose of gonorrhea? She was 16. Then and there she made up her mind: She wanted no more of men. Her mother, shrewd and down-to-earth, took her part. Defying custom, the old woman arranged a divorce, setting her daughter free. The girl had always had a passion for learning. She amazed her first teacher, the local Confucianist. Girls were not supposed to be inclined that way, but he encouraged her. Indifferent to farm work, indifferent to everything plodding and workaday, she read and read.