Savitribai Phule is widely regarded as India’s first female teacher, social reformer, poetess, and feminist icon. She was born on January 3, 1831, in Naigaon, Satara District, Maharashtra. She was a staunch advocate of education for girls and spoke about it widely. She, along with her husband Jyotirao Phule who was also a social reformer, started the first school for girls in India more than 170 years ago.
They went on to open 18 more such schools. ‘University of Pune’ was renamed ‘Savitribai Phule Pune University’ in 2014 to honour her contributions towards promoting education for women especially for those belonging to marginalized communities.
Savitribai faced a lot of resistance from the orthodox section of society for her revolutionary work. It is said she carried an extra saree while travelling to school because conservatives would hurl stones, cow dung and verbal abuses at her to create hurdles in her path.
Her own father-in-law asked Phule and her husband to move out of his house as he considered their work to be ‘sinful’ according to Brahmanical texts.
She was a prolific author and poet and wrote extensively about women’s issues. She also fought against injustices and oppression of women.
She set up a care center called ‘Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha’ for rape victims and pregnant women and would help with their deliveries. She strongly opposed Sati and set up a home for widows to help them.
She also established the ‘Satyashodhak Samaj’, a social reform society to break the hegemony of Brahmins in the social and political sphere. This society would work towards organising less expensive weddings, inter-caste marriages and advocated the rights of widows to remarry and end child marriage.
She also initiated a ‘Mahila Seva Mandal’ to raise awareness about women’s issues. After living a life dedicated to the upliftment of women, Phule passed away on March 10, 1897, after being infected by the bubonic plague.
Her efforts have been recognised by the government on various occasions. In 1998 a stamp was launched by the India Post in honour of Phule. The Pune City Corporation created a memorial for her in 1983.
Various political leaders like the Union Education Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to pay their respects to the female icon on her death anniversary:
She opened the first school for girls in the country and struggled for women’s education. Their sown seed has become a huge tree today, our daughters are working from becoming scientists to flying fighter planes. Hundreds of salutes to such a great personality Savitribai Phule ji on her death anniversary. pic.twitter.com/ej3xNI2pQJ
— Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (@DrRPNishank) March 10, 2021
Humble tribute to Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule ji on her death anniversary, an incomparable symbol of women empowerment, great social reformer, the first woman teacher of modern India and a strong supporter of education and equality of the deprived classes.
Your ideal life is a great inspiration for the whole civilization.
— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) March 10, 2021
Greetings on the occasion of the death anniversary of Savitribai Phule, the first female teacher in the country who dedicated her life for women’s education.
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 10, 2021