Savitribai Phule

Savitribai Phule: The Mother of Modern Education and Indian Feminism

Savitribai Phule may not be as well-known as some other great leaders or national figures, but her contribution to the freedom of the Indian woman has been no less remarkable or significant. No discussion of female education and empowerment in India would be complete without including its pioneer, Savitribai Phule

Mother of Indian feminism

Savitribai, one of the first leaders for education for girls and dignity for society"s most vulnerable groups – Dalits, women, and widows. She shattered all the customary restraints of 19th century India to usher in a new era of ideology. She can rightly be called the "Mother of Indian Feminism."

About Savitribai Phule

Birth and early life

  • 3rd January is the birth anniversary of one of India"s most recognized pioneers of female education, "Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule.” She is the country"s first female teacher, a feminist, and a social reformer. She was born on January 3, 1831, in the Maharashtra district of Satara, in the small village of Naigaon. 

  • She was Khandoji Neveshe"s and Lakshmi Patil"s eldest daughter. 

  • She married Jyotirao Phule when she was just ten years old.

Education of Savitribai Phule

  • Savitribai Phule was uneducated till she married and never attended school. 

  • Jyotirao was a social activist who advocated for the education of women. 

  • Jyotirao educated Savitribai Phule following her marriage.

  • Savitribai Phule attended two teacher-training programs. 

  • Cynthia Farrar, an American missionary, oversaw the initial program. 

  • The second program was held at the Normal School of Pune.

Working of Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule together for the betterment of the society

  • The remarkable pair of Jyotirao and Savitribai were involved in a passionate effort to create a movement for gender equality and an assault against the caste system. 

  • They committed their life to the advancement of education and knowledge. 

  • They established the country"s first school for girl at Bhide Wada in Pune in 1948 as well as the "Native Library." The school"s curriculum was based on western education and covered math, science, and social studies. 

  • Savitribai Phule established the first infanticide prohibition home in India on January 28, 1853. It was named Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha. It provided assistance to Brahmin pregnant widows and rape victims delivery children.

  • The concept of teaching women was regarded as evil during that time, which is why Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule were forced to leave the family home in 1849, and their efforts were labeled anti-social.

  • She and her husband had built three schools in Pune for 150 female students by the end of 1851.

  • The duo founded a night school for laborers and farmers in 1855.

  • During the famines that began in 1876, Savitribai Phule and her husband toiled tirelessly. They not only delivered free meals in various areas, but also opened 52 free food hostels throughout Maharashtra.

  • Jyotirao supported Savitribai in all of her social endeavors.

Work against child marriage

  • Apart from female education, Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba fought hard to end child marriage. 

  • The couple adopted a kid, which challenged traditional beliefs of caste and lineage. 

  • The Phules were staunch believers in inter-caste marriages as a method of breaking down the caste structure. 

  • They also wedded numerous widows at a period when no one could have imagined such freedom from oppression.

Establishment of the Satya Shodhak Samaj

  • Jyotirao Phule, the founder of Satya Shodhak Samaj, advocated for women"s rights. 

  • While he founded the Satya Shodhak Samaj, his wife, Savitribai Phule, became the head of the women"s division, with ninety female members. 

  • She also worked diligently as a school teacher for girls. Satyashodhak Samaj was established with the goal of educating lower castes, scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes and making them aware of society"s oppressive traditions. 

  • It also pioneered an idea of marriage without dowry.

Savitribai Phule – The Social Reformer

  • In 1852, she founded the Mahila Seva Mandal to advocate for women"s rights. The objective was to spread awareness amongst women about their dignity, rights, and other social problems.

  • She organized a barber strike in Pune and Mumbai to put pressure on barbers to stop the prevailing custom of shaving the heads of Brahmin widows.

  • Savitribai Phule also supported widow remarriage.

  • The British government eventually designated her the best teacher in the state in 1852.

  • In 1868, she and her husband dug a well in the backyard of their home to provide water for the downtrodden classes. 

  • The downtrodden classes were denied access to the village"s communal well.

Savitribai fought relentlessly to combat societal ills such as child marriage and sati pratha, two of the most pressing social concerns that were increasingly undermining women"s fundamental life. She also worked to bring child widows into society by teaching and empowering them. She also pushed for their re-marriage. Such endeavors were also greeted with tremendous opposition from the stringent upper caste society.

Literary works

  • Phule is regarded as the first contemporary, feminist, and revolutionary Marathi poet. 

  • Kavya Phule, her first collection of poetry, was published in 1854.

  • In 1892, she wrote Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar ("The Ocean of Pure Gems").

The final years

Savitribai Phule defied tradition once more when her husband Jyotiba died in 1890, being the first woman in Indian history to cremate her husband. She persisted in her mission to provide women and those who were oppressed a sense of liberty and dignity. In 1896, she worked tirelessly to help those stricken by the famine. In 1897, she was also in the lead in giving rehabilitation and medical assistance to plague (bubonic) sufferers. She became ill while carrying a sick child to the hospital. She passed away on 10th March 1987 bravely fighting the plague infection.

Savitribai Phule"s fortitude and unwavering determination laid the groundwork for the Renaissance in the education of women, ushering in a paradigm change in how women"s lives were previously envisaged. The history of social reformation in India would be incomplete without acknowledging Phule"s pioneering attempts to uplift the oppressed via an equal way of life. Her involvement involves teaching, leadership, preparatory work, poetry, and a variety of other activities. She not only altered the geopolitical landscape of nineteenth-century Maharashtra, but she also left a legacy for future generations to emulate.