Hailed as the country’s first woman teacher Savitribai Phule was much more than that. She was a poetess and a social reformer, too.
Born on January 3, 1831, Savitribai, along with her husband Jyotirao Phule, has carved a distinct space for women in the Indian society. The couple established the first women’s school in Bhidewada in Pune in 1848 at a time when girls were not sent to school.
Phule is credited with laying the foundation of women’s education during the British Raj and her poems speak outright against discrimination and unfair treatment of people based on their caste and gender.
Married at a tender age of nine, Savitribai was one of the few fortunate women of her times to have received an education. Her husband taught her at home and trained her to become a teacher.
Together they opened 18 schools for girls and she went on to become India’s first woman teacher and a headmistress. In her honour, the Pune university was renamed as Savitribai Phule University in 2014.
In 1863 Savitribai and Jyotirao started a home for the prevention of infanticide in to ensure the safety of widows and women in general. In 1897, along with her adopted son Yashwant, Savitribai established a clinic at Pune for the treatment of bubonic plague.
With her husband, Savitribai devoted her entire life to bringing in various social reforms for upliftment of women.
Her contribution to women empowerment is so immense that even Google recognised her birthday with this doodle:
Of course, women of our times enjoy far greater rights than they did in the late 19th century. But there still are areas and societies where women await the arrival of another Savitribai.