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The inspiring story of India's first female teacher: Savitribai Phule

savitribai phule first female teacher in indiaImage courtesy: Bhagat Kapil

This is the inspiring story of Savitribai Phule, the first woman teacher in India, who went on to set up the first school for girls in Bhide Wada, Pune. She was born on 3 January 1831 into a family of farmers in Naigaon, Maharashtra.

Watch this video which outlines her inspirational life:

Child marriage didn't stop her

Savitribai was married off at the age of 9 to a 12 year old Jyotirao Phule. Her thirst for learning impressed her husband, who then taught her to read and write. She then went on to train at Ms. Farar's institute in Ahmednagar and Ms.Mitchell's school in Pune. She became the first female teacher in India when she set up the first school for girls on 1 January 1848 in Bhide Wada in Pune, Maharashtra. Her first batch consisted of 8 girls.

Bravely facing resistance

During those days, women were not allowed to step outside their homes to work. So when Savitribai used to head to school everyday, she was verbally abused and pelted with rotten eggs and cow-dung by orthodox men. Her husband then handed her an extra sari. She would walk to school, receiving all the dirt that was thrown at her; reach school and change into the clean sari. By 1851, she was running three schools for 150 girl students.

One of India's first feminists

Savitribai conducted her adopted son, Yeshwant's wedding under the ‘Satya Shodhak Samaj’, or the truth-seekers society, with no priests, no dowry and at very little expense. She even brought her son’s fiancée for a home stay before the wedding, so she could get familiar with her soon-to-be home and family. Moreover, she took on the household chores so the young woman had time to study.

Savitribai is an iconic figure for Indian women who understood the true meaning of women’s liberation long before feminism became fashionable.

She broke yet another taboo when she led the funeral procession of her husband after he passed away in 1890. She carried the funeral mud-pot herself and led the procession.

Heroic death

When Pune was hit by the plague in 1897, she carried a 10-year-old boy from Mundhwa to the clinic strapped to her back. The boy recovered but Savitribai caught the infection and breathed her last in March 1897.

Every Indian woman who is educated today should feel grateful & indebted to Savitribai! The Pune University was renamed as Savitribai Phule University in 2014 to honour this social reformer.