Phule is described as "one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists." Know why.




At a time when people hardly identified the grievances of women in India, Savitribai Phule along with her husband stood up to fight the injustice against women.

Hailed as the country's first woman teacher, Savitribai Phule was also a social worker and a poet. Born on January 3, 1831, 2017 marks her 186th birth year. Savitribai Phule is credited with laying the foundation of education opportunities for women in India and played a major role in improving women's rights in the country during the British Raj.


 Many of her poems were against discrimination and spoke about the need to get educated. She campaigned against untouchability, Sati tradition, child marriage and other social evils most of her life.

Who was Savitribai Phule?


Savitribai Phule was born in Maharashtra's Naigaon. She was the eldest daughter of Lakshmi and Khandoji Neveshe Patil. At the age of 9, in 1840, she was married to 13-year-old Jyotirao Phule.


Jyotirao Phule educated her at home and trained her to become a teacher. Along with her husband, also a social reformer, she opened 18 schools for girls, going on to become India's first woman teacher and headmistress. Both her first and 18th school came up in Maharashtra's Pune. In her honour, the University of Pune was renamed as Savitribai Phule University in 2014.


Savitribai Phule fought against the caste system and worked towards the upliftment of the marginalised. In 1863, they started a 'home for the prevention of infanticide' in their own house, to ensure the safety of widows. Both she and her husband dedicated their lives to building a movement for equality between men and women and a fight against the caste system and remain shining examples for social reformers fighting for gender equality.

The child bride who stood up against discrimination


Born into a family of farmers in Naigaon, Maharashtra, she was married to 12-year-old Jyotirao Phule at the age of nine.


The practice of child marriage was prevalent in the 19th century and since the mortality rate was high at the time, many young girls often became widows even before attaining puberty.


Such widows used to shave their heads, wear a simple red sari and live a life of austerity. It was Savitribai who decided to stand up against this practice and organized a strike against the barbers in order to persuade them to stop shaving the heads of the widow.


She noticed the plight of women who after falling prey to sexual exploitation, and becoming pregnant, either committed suicide or killed the newborn due to fear of banishment by the society. To cater to such women she opened a care center for pregnant rape victims and helped deliver their children.


The care center was called "Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha" (Infanticide prohibition house).

Challenging the casteist patriarchy


Phule also worked to abolish discrimination and unfair treatment of people based on caste and gender.


She found the treatment of the untouchables problematic and opened a well in her house in 1868 so that, people who were refused drinking water by the upper caste can use it.


She died while taking care of the patients suffering during the worldwide Third Pandemic of the bubonic (bacterial infection) plague.

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