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Savitribai Phule: The first female teacher of India

Savitribai Phule: The first female teacher of India was born on January 3, 1831, India’s first feminist raised in a nation ruled by the British Raj, where women’s rights were non-existed. We know-how with support and hand in hand with her social reformer husband, Jyotirao Phule, she performed the unprecedented act of building the first school for girls in the whole of India.

first female teacher of  India
Savitribai Phule: The first female teacher of India

She was the eldest daughter of Lakshmi and Khandoji Neveshe Patil, both of whom belonged to the Mali community, now an Other Backward Caste (OBC). At the age of 9, she was married to 13-year-old Jyotirao Phule.

first female teacher of  India
The revolutionary couple Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule

Savitri was not tutored at the time of her marriage, as she was from a backward caste and a woman. The dominant Brahmin society did not allow men from backward caste societies and women to get an education. Her husband was one of the greatest social reformers of Maharashtra Jyotirao Phule better known as Jyotiba, for the occurrence was forced to ditch school because of his caste. However, with the support of the Persian scholar Ghaffar Baig Munshi and a British official, Lizit Sahab, Jyotiba was registered in a Scottish missionary school where he studied till 7th standard.

Savitribai Phule
Jyotirao Phule educating Savitribai Phule

It was Jyotirao Phule who trained Savitribai to read and write. Every afternoon, when Savitribai Phule came to the fields where her husband worked to give him his food, Jyotirao sat with her and taught her. She was enthusiastic about teaching and soon enrolled herself in a teachers’ training institution in Ahmednagar. She also accepted another teacher’s training course in Pune. Since at that time the intention of teaching girls was estimated to be a radical one, people would often throw dung and rocks at her as she went her way to the school.

When news spread to Jyotirao’s father, he threatened to throw them out of the house out of fear of denunciations from orthodox components since the work they were involved in was acknowledged as a sin according to Brahminical texts. The fire of revolution was already inflamed, Savitribai Phule chose to follow her husband.

India’s first school for girls in Vishrambag Wada, Pune
India’s first school for girls in Vishrambag Wada, Pune
India’s first school for girls in Vishrambag Wada, Pune
India’s first school for girls in Vishrambag Wada, Pune

Significantly, it was not simple for the Phule’s to support the education of women and the untouchable castes in India. In 1848, the revolutionary husband and wife finally founded and opened India’s first school for girls in Vishrambag Wada, Pune. At the starting of the school, only nine girls were enrolled from all different castes. Following on, slowly the number increased to 25. While Savitribai became the headmistress, she taught beside her fellow trainee Fatima Sheikh and Jyotirao’s emancipated aunt Sagunabai.

The first female teacher Savitribai Phule teaching
The first female teacher Savitribai Phule teaching

The empowered couple did a lot of work in the famine and established 52 boarding schools for orphaned children. In 1863, Jyotirao and Savitribai originated the first-ever infanticide prohibition home in India called Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha. It helped pregnant Brahmin widows and rape victims deliver children. In 1874, they adopted a boy from a Brahmin widow, Kashibai. Within this, the couple wanted to send strong directions to the conservative society. Their adopted son, Yashawantrao, grew up to become a doctor.

Jyotiba suffered a stroke in 1888 and was declared paralyzed. The great social reformer, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, passed away On 28 November 1890. Savitribai died on March 10, 1897, battling the bubonic plague. She helped her Doctor Son to treat and take care of the patients at his clinic in Pune. She caught the disease and died of it.

Women’s liberation has never been simple and possibly would never be. But it is grateful to India’s first gutsy feminist Savitribai Phule that the women in the nation have stood where they are today liberally.