One of the renowned social reformer, educationalist, and a famous poet of India was Savitribai Phule.
Savitribai Phule wanted to educate the world so as to change their way of thinking and improve society as a whole.
She is believed to be the first woman teacher in India. She had contributed to a large extent to the upliftment and rights of women.
Phule and her husband Jyotirao Phule also established the first girls’ school in Pune, in the year 1848 situated in Bhidewada.
Savitribai Phule is considered the mother of Indian feminism. Phule worked consistently to remove the discrimination on the basis of caste or gender.
She is considered a prominent figure amongst the social reformers of Maharashtra. She was a well-versed Marathi writer as well.
Childhood of Savitribai Phule
Savitribai Phule was the eldest daughter of Lakshmi and Khandoji Patil of the Mali community.
She was born on 3 January 1831 in a small village named Naigaon situated in the Satara District, this place is around 50 km from Pune.
Phule was married off very young and she was not educated at that time. It is her husband who took the initiative and educated her at their residence.
She finished her primary education at home but later was taught by the friends of her husband, Sakharam Yeshwant Paranjpe, and Keshav Shivram Bhavalkar.
Later she also enrolled in two teacher training programs as well. One such institute was run by an American Missionary, Cynthia Farrar in Ahmednagar.
And the second normal school of training was in Pune. She became the first female teacher and headmistress.
On 3 January BALIKA DIN is celebrated in the state of Maharashtra in her remembrance.
Savitribai and Jyotirao did not have any biological children, they adopted Yashawantrao who was a son of a Brahmin widow.
Savitribai Phule Career
There is no formal information about her own education as she was homeschooled. But once her teacher training was complete she became a full-fledged teacher.
She began by teaching the girls at Maharwada in Pune. She was guided and worked along with Sugnabai who was a mentor of her husband.
Sugnabai is a renowned activist herself as well. The trio of Sugnabai, Savitribai, and Jyotirao started a school at Bhidewada.
This place is the hometown of Tatya Saheb Bhide who was very impressed by their initiative.
Their school had a curriculum of traditional as well as western subjects such as mathematics, science, and social studies.
By the year 1851, they had successfully established three girl’s schools in Pune. They were now educating around 150 students combined in the three schools.
Their teaching methods were also different and in a way superior to the other government schools. The quality of education had high standards and was loved by girls, so slowly the number of girls getting educated in Phule schools had surpassed the number of boys getting educated in government schools.
Resistance faced by Savitribai Phule
No good move goes unopposed. So their social improvement step was also opposed by the local communities.
An author Divya Kandukuri notes that Savitribai used to carry and extra saree to the school as she was assaulted verbally and stones and dung was pelted on her on the way to school.
But all this did not stop her from teaching in the school. Their efforts were considered a sin by a section of society.
As they were imparting education to all and the Sudras had been denied education for thousands of years, their move was not welcome. They initially stayed with the father of Jyotirao, but in the year 1849, he asked them to leave.
Savitribai Phule‘s alliance with Fatima Begum Sheikh
When Jyotirao’s father asked them to leave the house Phule and her husband took shelter with the family of a friend Usman Sheikh.
Here Phule met Fatima Begum Sheikh and became close friends and colleagues. Due to the persuasion of Usman sheikh his sister Fatima knew how to read and write.
Begum Sheikh also went to Normal school for teacher training. They all soon started a school at the residence of Usman itself.
Fatima Begum is known to be the first Muslim female teacher in India.
In 1850 they established two different trusts by the name of The native female school and the society for promoting education of Mahars, Mangs, and etc.
They established many more schools that were lead by Phule and them by Fatima Begum.
Noted contribution of Savitribai Phule
Jyotirao once in his interview said that he and his wife believed that positive changes can be seen in a child due to his mother.
The character and education of a child are done majorly by a mother. So her contribution is important in the life of a child.
To improve society as a whole the condition and education of women must be improved. They are the foundation of a happy family.
No one would allow Phule and her husband to teach or give them space for opening a school. Still, they managed to open a total of 18 schools.
They even opened a Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha for the shelter of pregnant rape victims and helped deliver and save their children.
Savitribai Phule as Poet
Savitribai Phule was a famous poet. She published Kavya Phule in the year 1854 and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar in 1892.
She also wrote poems to encourage people to go and get educated. She was considered a feminist of her time.
Phule also established Mahila Sevak Mandal to raise awareness against the issue of women’s rights.
She used to hold gatherings free from any discrimination basis caste or anything. All women would sit in the same mat, symbolizing that all are equal.
Phule was also an anti- infanticide. She also worked against child marriage and encouraged widow remarriage. Phule also opposed sati pratha.
Savitribai Phule was a feminist who worked for the betterment of women and society as a whole. She even established a care center for those affected by the Plague in 1897 with her son.
She died serving the patients due to plague in the same year. She wanted to improve society by educating the building blocks; the women. Phule took up many noted steps in this direction. She is remembered for her brave and strong steps.