First Female Teacher in India
In the annals of Indian history, one name stands as a beacon of enlightenment and progress- Savitribai Phule. She was not just the first female teacher in India but also a social reformer, poet and a relentless advocate for women’s education and rights during a time when such ideas were considered revolutionary.
Savitribai Phule emerged as a pioneer in advancing education for marginalized sections, particularly girls. As India’s first female teacher in 1848, she, alongside her husband Jyotirao Phule, established the country’s first girls’ school.
Her impact extended further as she founded a refuge for vulnerable women in 1864 and significantly contributed to shaping the groundbreaking Satyashodhak Samaj, founded by Jyotirao Phule in 1873, which advocated for equality across all societal strata.
Savitribai Phule: Early Life
- Savitribai Phule was born in Naigaon, a small village situated in the state of Maharashtra, India. She hailed from the Dalit community, belonging to the Mali caste.
- Even in her early years, she exhibited remarkable curiosity and determination. Her legacy shines as a symbol of women’s empowerment in the country, earning her the title ‘Mother of Indian Feminism‘.
- At a mere 9 years old, she entered into matrimony with Jyotirao Phule, a notable social reformer who ardently advocated for women’s education. Under his guidance, Savitribai began her education through homeschooling.
Savitribai Phule: Beyond education, a social reformer
- Savitribai started the Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha (Home for the Prevention of Infanticide), a childcare centre for sexually exploited, pregnant widows and rape victims facing discrimination.
- She also adopted a child of a widow, Yashwantrao, who was educated to become a health expert. She confronted the caste system head-on, advocating for radical principles and working to dismantle the education system controlled by the elite.
- She established the Mahila Seva Mandal to raise awareness for issues concerning women’s rights.
- She opened a women’s shelter called the Home for the Prevention of Infanticide, where Brahmin widows could safely deliver their children and leave them there to be adopted if they so desired.
The Legacy of Savitribai Phule
- Savitribai Phule stands alongside prominent figures such as B. R. Ambedkar and Annabhau Sathe, becoming an iconic figure, especially for marginalized communities.
- Her memory is immortalized through various tributes and memorials. In 1983, the Pune City Corporation erected a memorial to commemorate her contributions.
- The nation paid tribute to her on March 10, 1998, with the release of a commemorative stamp by India Post.
- Savitribai’s birthdate, January 3, holds special significance as Balika Din (Girl Child Day) throughout Maharashtra, especially in girls’ schools.
- A remarkable honor was bestowed upon her legacy in 2015 when the University of Pune was renamed as Savitribai Phule Pune University.
Savitribai’s collection of poems titled ‘Kavya‘ (Poetry’s Blossoms), published in 1854, showcased her poetic prowess. Additionally, her work ‘Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar‘ (The Ocean of Pure Gems), published in 1892, further highlighted her intellectual depth and literary brilliance.
Recognition and Honors
In a notable event on November 16, 1852, the Phule family received recognition from the British government for their remarkable contributions to the field of education. Savitribai was notably honored and acclaimed as the finest educator.
A Legacy Remembered
Savitribai Phule’s extraordinary journey concluded on March 10, 1897, when she fell ill while caring for plague-stricken individuals. Her commitment to her principles and her tireless struggle for equality remain a source of inspiration for generations.
Even today, Savitribai Phule’s influence reverberates powerfully, especially through her unwavering commitment to the education of girls and women.
Key Points for Competitive Exams
- Savitribai Phule belonged from the state of: Maharashtra