Context: Maharashtra Chief Minister directed to initiate a probe into a website that allegedly posted derogatory content against pioneering 19th-century educationists.

Savitribai Phule

  • She was from the Mali community and was born on January 3, 1831, in Maharashtra’s Naigaon village. 
  • At the tender age of 10, she was married to 12-year-old Jyotirao Phule, a man of social reform himself, who believed that women must be educated. He began to home-school Savitribai. Later, Jyotirao admitted Savitribai to a teacher’s training institution in Pune.
  • She was an exponent of female education, equality, and justice who took on the caste system with her revolutionary ideals and strived to dismantle the elite-controlled education system.

Contributions of Savitribai Phule in Education:

  • In 1848, Savitibai and Jyotiba established the first-ever school for girls in Bhidewada of which Savitribai was the headmistress. 
  • In 1853, they established an education society that opened more schools for girls and women from all classes, in surrounding villages.
  • Savitribai and Jyotirao broke social barriers, paving the way for women’s emancipation in a time when female education was unheard of.
  • Known as modern India’s first female teacher and in 1852, she was declared the best teacher in the state by the British government.

Role as Social Reformer

  • Savitribai started the Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha (‘Home for the Prevention of Infanticide’), a childcare centre for sexually exploited, pregnant widows, and rape victims facing discrimination. 
  • She also adopted a child of a widow, Yashwantrao.
  • In 1852, she started the Mahila Seva Mandal to fight for the rights of women
  • She organized a strike against barbers in Pune and Mumbai, putting pressure on them to stop shaving the heads of Brahmin widows.
  • She is often referred to as the mother of Indian feminism.
  • In 1873, Savitibai and Jyotiba started ‘Satyashodhak Marriage’, a rejection of Brahmanical rituals where the marrying couple takes a pledge to promote education and equality.
  • In 1868, she along with her husband set up a well in their backyard to allow people from the oppressed classes to drink water.
  • In 1897, following the Bubonic plague, Savitribai set up a clinic in Hadapsar to attend to the victims of the plague. 

 Literary works

  • She published two collections of poems – Kavya Phule(Poetry’s Blossoms) was published in 1854 and Bhavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar (The Ocean of Pure Gems), in 1892.

Her most iconic poem is titled ‘Go, Get Education’ and was intended to encourage women to educate themselves as the best means of fighting inequality.

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