First woman teacher of India
Born on January 3, 1831, in Naigaon, of Satara district, Maharashtra. Her parents are Laxmi and Khandoji Nevase Patil, belonging to the Mali community. She is the eldest daughter. She got married at an age of 9 years to Jyotibha Phule who was 12 years old. At the time of the marriage, Savitri bai is illiterate. Savitri bai’s education started after her marriage. It was her husband Jyotibha Phule who helped her to attain high levels of education. After completing her education Jyotibha admitted Savitribai to a teacher’s training institute in Pune. Jyotibha Phule stood firmly by the side of Savitribai Phule in all her social endeavors.
She worked for the upliftment of women in terms of education. Savitribai set up India’s first women’s school for different castes in Bhidewada, Pune. The school started with 9 girl students. She became the first women teacher in the country. To increase enrollment both Jyotibha and Savitribai introduced innovative methods in the school. They also conducted regular meetings with parents to make them aware of the importance of education. With the continuous efforts of the couple, the enrollment of the school increased gradually.
However, the enrollment of students from lower caste and untouchables angered the Upper caste Hindus. To educate the girls and run a school for girl’s education is not an easy task in those days. However, her move was discouraged by many, especially upper caste who opposed Dalit’s education. These conservative people started spreading rumors about Savitribai and her husband Jyotibha. When these tales didn’t discourage Savitribai, people used to throw cow dung, eggs, and mud at her while she walked towards the school. Jyotibha advised her to carry an extra sari in the bag so that she can wear a fresh one while teaching in the school.
With the increasing pressure from the Upper Caste Hindus Jyotibha’s father threw them out of his house. Usman Sheikh, a friend of Jyotibha accommodated the couple at his residence. Fatima Sheikh, sister of Usman Sheikh who was already literate accompanied Savitribai in a teacher training program. Later Fatima Sheikh became the first Muslim Woman teacher.
Jyotibha and Savitribai opened 18 schools across Maharashtra and taught children from different castes. British Government honored the couple for their work in the School Education System. The couple also opened 52 free hostels for poor children across Maharashtra.
The couple has no children so they adopted Yashwantrao a son born to a Brahmin widow who later became a doctor. They started a care center called Balhatya Pratibhandhak Griha. To stop the drop-out rate she started giving stipends to the students for attending the school. She also took initiative to malnutrition in children by taking personal care of each and every child in her school.
In 1897 due to Plague when hundreds of people were dying in Pune, Savitribai along with her son Yashwantrao set up a clinic to take care of the patients. She served food for children of the affected families. She dedicated all her time and served the people. While caring for the patients she herself contracted the disease and died from it on 10th May 1897.
Savitribai was a renowned poet too. Two books Kavya Phule (1954) and Bhavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar published posthumously.
The University of Pune in 2015 was renamed as Savitribai Phule Pune University.
In 1998 India Post released a stamp.
3 January 2019 Google marked her 188 birthday with a Google Doodle.
Her birthday on 3 January is celebrated as “Balika Din” in Maharashtra.
Organizations: Balhatya Pratibhandhak Griha started for the pregnant Brahmin widows and rape victims so that they can deliver their children in a safe and secure place.
Savitribai campaigned against child marriage and Sati Pratha and advocated for widow remarriage.
Savitribai associated with Satyashodhak Samaj established by Mahatma Jyotibha Phule. Satyashodhak Samaj was open to all irrespective of caste and religion.
A memorial is created in her honor by Pune City Municipal Corporation.
When Jyotibha Phule died she led the final journey and consigned his body to the flames. Probably it is the first time in the history of India that a woman had performed the death rites.
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