Regarded as India’s first feminist icon, Savitribai Phule was a key figure in the social reform movement, particularly in Maharashtra. Savitribai, widely regarded as the first woman teacher in India, along with her husband Jyotirao founded India’s first girls’ school.
She fought casteism and patriarchy and spoke about the need for education for girls. The educationist and poetess also wrote verses against discrimination, caste atrocities and child marriage.
She dedicated her life to women’s rights and education and her legacy continues to inspire millions today. Savitribai died of the bubonic plague at the age of 66.
On her death anniversary today, here are some significant facts about the social reformer, thinker and activist:
1. She was married to her husband Jyotirao Phule at the age of 10 who was 13 at the time.
2. Despite facing ostracism from her community, she focused on the education of all women. After opening the first school for girls in India with her husband, they started 18 more such schools.
3. In 1848, only nine students were on the rolls in the first girls school. Savitribai would teach there and offer stipends to avert students from dropping out and encourage them to complete their education.
4. She was born in Naigaon village in Satara district in a family of farmers.
5. Savitribai was one of the first modern Indian feminists who fought against widows shaving their heads.
6. In 1998, India Post released a stamp in honour of Savitribai.
7. She opened a care hub for pregnant rape victims and supported deliver their baby.
8. Savitribai and her adopted son, Yashwant, opened a clinic in 1897 to treat those affected by the Third Pandemic of the bubonic plague in Pune. She herself contracted the disease while serving a plague patient.
9. She installed a well in her own house for the people who were socially considered to be ‘untouchable’.
10. Savitribai along with her husband, founded the Satyashodhak Samaj to organise marriages, especially inter-caste, without priests and dowry.