January 3 marks the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule. Known for her contribution in the field of women’s education, Savitribai Phule was born on January 3, 1831, in Maharashtra’s Satara district in a country ruled by the Britishers, where women rights were non-existent. She is widely regarded as a woman teacher who campaigned to create awareness on the need for education for women. A feminist icon, Phule fought against patriarchy and casteism and faced countless hardships in the process.
On her 190th birth anniversary, we bring you 10 facts about oldest flag bearer of feminism in India:
- Born in a farmer family in the backward Mali community, Savitribai Phule was married off to 13-year-old Jyotirao Phule at the tender age of nine.
- Savitribai taught in the school which she and her husband started in 1848 with just nine students on the rolls. Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule were asked to leave the ancestral house as her father-in-law was upset with the couple’s revolutionary activities.
- To encourage children to attend school, Phule used to offer them stipends. The couple established a total of 18 schools. By the end of 1851, the Phules were running three schools in Pune with around 150 girl students.
- It is said that Savitribai used to carry an extra sari while walking towards her school as what she was wearing would get soiled with the stones and dung hurled at her by the irate people. She braved verbal abuses, near-social ostracisation and the kind of humiliation mentioned earlier.
- She also started a care centre for pregnant rape victims called “Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha” where she helped them deliver their babies.
- Savitribai was fond of poetry as well, she used the art form to further her causes of women’s education and eradication of untouchability. Some of her important works include Kavya Phule, which was published in 1854 and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar in 1892.
- Phule opened up a well for the untouchables in her house in defiance of the caste system.
- The couple had adopted a son born to a widowed Brahmin woman in 1874. Dr Yashwantrao’s birth mother, Kashibai, was sheltered by the couple from conservative Brahmins in Pune who tried to kill her when she became a widow. He went on to study medicine and was known as Dr Yashwantrao Phule, who later joined the Army’s medical corps.
- In 1897 when the bubonic plague struck, Phule and her adopted son, Yashwant, started a clinic to help the affected people. Savitribai died of the plague after she carried an infected person on her back to the hospital. She died on March 10, 1897.
- The first woman teacher and the first female educationist of India was also the first female poetess. She wrote a poem entitled ‘Go, Get Education’ which encouraged people to free themselves from oppression by educating themselves.
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