January 3, 2017: Savitribai Jyotirao Phule was born on 3 January 1831 in Maharashtra’s Naigaon. She was the eldest daughter of Lakshmi and Khandoji Neveshe Patil. She is credited with laying the foundation of education opportunities for women in India and played a major role in improving women’s rights in the country during the British Rule. Savitribai Phule is described as “one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists.”
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At the age of 9 she was married to 13-year-old Jyotirao Phule an Indian activist, thinker, social reformer and writer. Jyotirao Phule educated her at home and trained her to become a teacher. With her husband Savitribai started the first women’s school in 1848 in Pune, Maharashtra. It was established to provide greater encouragement to girl child education and empowerment among the female sex.
Savitribai opened 18 schools for girls, and became India’s first woman teacher and headmistress.
It is said that Savitribai used to carry two saris because people used to throw mud on her way to school. After reaching school, she uses to remove her muddy sari and change into a new one.
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Savitribai Phule was a pioneer in Marathi poetry. Many of her poems were against caste and gender injustice and spoke about the need to get educated. She campaigned against untouchability, Sati tradition, child marriage. She also fought for the rights of women, peasants, Dalits and backward castes.
It was she who stood up against widows shaving their heads. She also opened a care center for pregnant rape victims and helped them to deliver their children. The care center was called “Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha” (Infanticide prohibition house).
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In 2014, the Maharashtra government, in a tribute to Savitribai Phule, renamed Pune University in her name. As recently as last year, there were also calls for Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, to be bestowed on Savitribai Phule.
Savitribai Phule died on 10 March 1897 while taking care of the patients suffering during the worldwide Third Pandemic of the bubonic (bacterial infection) plague.
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