Savitribai Phule was a leading social reformer who fought for the upliftment of women’s status in the Indian society. She is widely regarded as a woman teacher who campaigned to create awareness on the need for education for women. A feminist icon, Phule fought against patriarchy and casteism and faced countless hardships in the process. Her birth anniversary, i.e. January 3, is celebrated as Balika Din in Maharashtra.
On her 190th birth anniversary, we bring you ten facts about the pioneer in the field of women’s education in India:
1. Born on January 3, 1831 in the village of Naigaon in Satara district, about 50 kilometers from Pune, Phule was married at the age of nine. She was an illiterate at the time.
2. She fought against social evils like the practice of Sati and child marriage and played a vital role in improving women’s rights in the country.
3. She, along with her husband Jyotirao Phule, started India’s first girls' school at Bhide wada, Pune in 1848. The girls who studied there were taught the western curriculum of mathematics, science, and social studies.
4. To encourage children to attend school, Phule used to offer them stipends. The couple established a total of 18 schools.
5. Phule opened up a well for the untouchables in her house in defiance of the caste system.
6. She also started a care centre for pregnant rape victims called “Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha” where she helped them deliver their babies.
7. To raise awareness on the women’s rights in the society, Phule set up a Mahila Seva Mandal, a gathering place for women to discuss important issues concerning their rights.
8. Savitribai was also a prolific writer and poet. Some of her important works include Kavya Phule, which was published in 1854 and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar in 1892.
9. In 1897 when the bubonic plague struck, Phule and her adopted son, Yashwant, started a clinic to help the affected people.
10. Savitribai died of the plague after she carried an infected person on her back to the hospital. She died on March 10, 1897.