Savitribai Phule is not an unknown name for most Indians. For women, she is no less than a pioneering force that led to revolutionary changes. The first female teacher of India, Savitribai Phule surely did not reach there without any impediments or hurdles on the way. We know her name and her many achievements, but we don’t know what her many other contributions or how and why she did it all. With education and women’s rights becoming increasingly popular and trending topics, knowing more about Savitribai Phule has become even more important.
So, today, let’s get to know the woman behind the name. Here’s some interesting trivia on the life and times of Savitribai Phule, who was more of an activist than most of us today!
1. Victim and Survivor of Child Marriage
She was married off at the tender age of 9. Though her husband was one of her biggest supporters, it was this which made her vehemently oppose the evil practice of child marriage. Looking at the wasted lives of young widows who were victims of child marriage, also led to her to opposing the evil practice of Sati.
2. One Woman, Many Roles
Besides being a teacher and a social reformer, Savitribai Phule was also a philosopher and a poet. Her poetry focused on nature, education and the abolition of the caste system. Thus, she played many roles in just one lifetime. Here is a snippet from one of her poems.
3. Compassionate Woman
Other than fighting for the rights of women, Savitribai Phule also vouched for the rights of the untouchables and lower caste people in India. Such was her compassion that she opened up a well for the untouchables in her own house.
4. Women’s Protection and Rights activist
She always laid emphasis on the education of women. It was she who, along with her husband, opened the first school for girls in India. Together they went on to open 18 such schools. The miserable condition of pregnant rape victims was also observed by Savitribai Phule, and hence, yet again with her husband’s support, she opened a care center “Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha”
5. Believer of Love Marriage
Back in the days, when the caste system was deeply embedded in our culture and society, she promoted inter-caste marriages openly. She founded the Satyashodhak Samaj, along with her husband. Here, people could get married without a priest and without any sort of dowry being given or taken.
6. No-shave movement
She organized and led a strike against the barbers to discourage and stop the practice of shaving the heads of the widows which was a norm back in those days.
7. The Struggles
Fighting against the system and the society, at a time when India was still suppressed by the British and also its own rigid caste and superstitions, Savitribai Phule wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. People used to dislike her movements so much that they threw dirt and mud on her whenever she used to go out to teach the girls. However, Savitribai wasn’t one to give up easily, and hence always carried an extra pair of clothes with her for such scenarios.
8. Practicing What She Preached
She once stopped a pregnant woman from committing suicide by promising her that she would take care of her unborn child. Later, she and her husband adopted the son who was born to this lady. They named him Yashavant Rao. He grew up to become a doctor. Moreover, she believed so much in the importance of education and its equality that in order to encourage students to study and reduce the drop-out rate, she used to give stipends to children for attending school.
9. Contributions to Healthcare
Along with her adopted son, Yashwant, she opened a clinic to treat those people who were affected by the worldwide Third Pandemic of the bubonic plague when it started to spread in and around Pune in 1897.
10. After Death
Savitribai Phule passed away on March 10, 1897. To honor her lifeworks and contributions, the University of Pune was renamed as Savitribai Phule Pune University in 2015. Her unreleased poems were published posthumously in the form of two books, Kavya Phule (1934) and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar (1982), respectively. India Post released a stamp in honor of Savitribai Phule on March 10, 1998.
Wasn’t she an amazingly inspirational woman? If you like her story then the tale of Rukhmabai will also entice you too.