Savitribai Phule: India’s First Female Teacher

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Activist and education reformer Savitribai Phule, India’s first woman teacher, was born on January 3, 1831. As the country marks her birth anniversary, here is a look at her life and accomplishments. Savitribai Phule was born in Maharashtra’s Satara district in 1831. At the age of nine, she was married to Jyotirao Phule, who went on to become a prominent writer and anti-caste social reformer.

Savitribai Phule could not read and write at that age so her husband took the responsibility of educating her at home. Two of Jyotirao Phule’s friends helped her study further. Later in life, she signed up for two teacher training courses.

After completing the courses, she began teaching girls in Maharwada in Pune along with her husband’s mentor Sagunabai, who was a revolutionary feminist.

In 1848, Savitribai Phule and Jyotirao Phule started the first Indian school for girls in Pune. The couple went on to start three more schools in the city by 1851.

Savitribai Phule and Jyotirao Phule faced opposition from members of upper caste communities for helping the Shudras (fourth and lowest of the traditional varnas, or social classes, of India, traditionally artisans and laborers) receive an education. The couple themselves belonged to the socially-backward Mali community.

The pioneering activist died in March 1897 along with her adopted son, a doctor, while serving plague patients at a clinic set up by them.