Savitribai Phule

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Savitribai Phule
Savitribai Phule 1998 stamp of India.jpg
Phule on a 1998 stamp of India
Born(1831-01-03)3 January 1831
Died10 March 1897(1897-03-10) (aged 66)
Cause of deathBubonic plague
Spouse(s)Jyotirao Phule

Savitribai Phule (3 January 1831 – 10 March 1897) was an Indian social reformer, educationalist, and poet from Maharashtra. She is regarded as the first female teacher of India. Along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule, she played an important role in improving women's rights in India during British rule. Phule and her husband founded the first girl's school in Pune, which was run by Indians at Bhide wada in 1848.[a] She worked to abolish the discrimination and unfair treatment of people based on caste and gender. She is regarded as an important figure of the social reform movement in Maharashtra.

A philanthropist and an educationist, Phule was also a prolific Marathi writer.

Early life[edit]

Savitribai Phule was born in 1831 in Naigaon, Satara into a farming family.[1] At the age of nine, she was married to twelve-year-old Jyotirao Phule in 1840.[2] Savitribai and Jyotirao had no children of their own,[3][page needed] but they adopted Yashawantrao, a son born to a Brahmin widow.[4]


When Jyotirao Phule started the girls school in Pune in 1848, Savitribai was its first teacher.[5] Together with her husband, she taught children from different castes and opened a total of 18 schools.[6] The couple also opened a care centre called Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha[4] for pregnant rape victims and helped deliver their children.[2]


Savitribai and her adopted son, Yashwant, opened a clinic to treat those affected by the worldwide Third Pandemic of the bubonic plague when it appeared in the area around Nalasopara in 1897.[7] The clinic was established at stern outskirts of Pune, in an area free of infection. Savitribai personally took patients to the clinic where her son served them. While caring for the patients, she contracted the disease herself. She died from it on 10 March 1897 while serving a plague patient.[1]


Savitribai Phule wrote many poems against discrimination and advised people to get educated.[8][9][full citation needed] Two books of her poems were published posthumously, Kavya Phule (1954) and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar (1982).


Bust of Savitribai Phule in Pune

Pune City Corporation created a memorial for her in 1983.

On 3 January 2019, the search engine Google marked the 188th anniversary of the birth of Savitribai Phule with a Google doodle.[11][12]

Along with Ambedkar and Annabhau Sathe, Phule has become an icon in particular for the Dalit Mang caste. Women in local branches of the Manavi Hakk Abhiyan (Human Rights Campaign, a Mang-Ambedkarite body)[13] frequently organise processions on their jayanti (birthday in Marathi and other Indian languages).[14]

A Kannada biopic movie was made about Phule in 2018.[15]



  1. ^ The American missionary Cynthia Farrar had started a girl's school in Bombay in 1829. In 1847,the Students' literary and scientific society started the Kamalabai high school for girls in the Girgaon neighborhood of Bombay. The school is still operational in 2016. Peary Charan Sarkar started a school for girls called Kalikrishna Girls' High School in the Bengali town of Barasat in 1847. The Parsi community Mumbai had also established a school for girls in 1847)


  1. ^ a b Wayne, Tiffany K., ed. (2011). Feminist Writings from Ancient Times to the Modern World: A Global Sourcebook and History. ABC-CLIO. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-313-34581-4.
  2. ^ a b Agnihotri, Sanjana (3 January 2017). "Who is Savitribai Phule? What did she do for womens rights in India?". India Today. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  3. ^ Rege, Sharmila (2009). Savitribai Phule Second Memorial Lecture, [2009]. National Council of Educational Research and Training. ISBN 978-8-17450-931-4.
  4. ^ a b O'Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India (Revised ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-521-52308-0.
  5. ^ O'Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India (Revised ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-521-52308-0.
  6. ^ "Who was Savitribai Phule? Remembering India's first woman teacher". The Financial Express. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Savitribai Phule – Google Arts & Culture". Google Cultural Institute. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Few Poems by Savitribai Phule". Dr Ambedkar's Caravan.
  9. ^ A Forgotten Liberator – The Life And Struggle of Savitribai Phule. Mountain Peak Publishers. ISBN 978-81-906277-0-2.
  10. ^ Kothari, Vishwas (8 July 2014). "Pune university to be renamed after Savitribai Phule". Times of India. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Google doodle pays tribute to social reformer Savitribai Phule". The Hindu. 3 January 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Savitribai Phule, Google Doodle Tribute To Social Reformer". 3 January 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  13. ^ Waghmore, Suryakant (2016). "Challenging Normalised Exclusion: Humour and Hopeful Rationality in Dalit Politics". In Gorringe, Hugo; Jeffery, Roger; Waghmore, Suryakant. From the Margins to the Mainstream: Institutionalising Minorities in South Asia. SAGE Publications. p. 151. ISBN 978-9-35150-622-5.
  14. ^ Waghmore, Suryakant (2013). Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India. SAGE Publications. pp. 34, 57, 71–72. ISBN 978-8-13211-886-2.
  15. ^ R, Shilpa Sebastian (2018-08-08). "Will it be a hat-trick?". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2019-01-23.

Further reading[edit]

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