India’s First Woman Teacher

Smt. Savitribai Phule is formally recognised as India’s first woman teacher, a pioneer, who challenged the oppressive social norms in her quest for women’s education, equality and justice. She personified the indomitable spirit of women power.

Today, on her 192nd birth anniversary, while paying homage to her, I share some important anchors of her inspiring life.

Savitribai Phule, a Dalit woman from the Mali community, was born on January 3, 1831, in Maharashtra’s Naigaon village. She was married off at the tender age of 10, but her supportive husband, Jyotirao Phule, who was 13, educated her first at home, and then got her admitted to a teachers’ training institution in Pune. Thereafter she started teaching girls.

Just imagine the situation about 200 years back in British India, when so many social evils were prevalent. As a young woman, she was deeply moved by the plight of women, and children in her community. She saw how they were being oppressed and discriminated against.

The couple jointly broke many social barriers. Phules opened a school for girls, the country’s first girls’ school in Bhidewada, Pune, in 1848. They opened more such schools for girls, backward castes and untouchables. They believed that education was a critical tool for women’s empowerment.

The upper caste people opposed the couple for opening schools for girls and Dalits. They often pelted stones and threw mud on her while commuting to her school. Even Jyotirao’s father, Govindrao kicked them out of his house.

But all this did not deter them. Savitribai along with her husband started ‘Home for the Prevention of Infanticide’ for pregnant widows facing discrimination. They had no children, but adopted Yashwantrao, the child of a widow, whom they educated to become a doctor.

In 1873, the Phules set up the Satyashodhak Samaj (‘Truth-Seekers’ Society’), a platform open to all, irrespective of their caste, religion or class hierarchies, with the sole aim of bringing social equity.

Savitribai Phule also advocated inter-caste marriages, widow remarriage, and eradication of child marriage, sati and dowry systems, among other social issues.

She urged women to break free of caste barriers, and to promote education and equality. She gave a clarion call to the oppressed and the downtrodden to fight for justice.

When her husband expired on November 28, 1890, she performed his last rites, consigning his body to the flames, a ritual which is carried out by men even now.

Driven by compassion, courage, service and humanity, Savitribai actively associated with relief work during the 1896 famine and the 1897 Bubonic plague. She herself contracted the disease while taking a sick child to the hospital, and breathed her last on March 10, 1897.

Savitribai also used to write poems, songs and articles. She published her first collection of poems, called Kavya Phule at the age of 23 in 1854. Her poems also pointed out the necessity of learning English. One of her poems reads as under:

Go, Get Education

Be self-reliant, be industrious
Work, gather wisdom and riches,
All gets lost without knowledge
We become animal without wisdom,
Sit idle no more, go, get education
End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
You’ve got a golden chance to learn
So learn and break the chains of caste.
Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.

Savitribai’s contributions to education, women’s rights and social reforms cannot be forgotten. Her legacy still inspires people to work towards a just and equitable society.

–Kaushal Kishore



  1. This is a timely piece and a wonderful insight into Indian history during the occupation by the British imperialists. You’ve done a beautiful thing bringing a hero to life, and keeping her memory alive. I hope you could share this mainstream. More works like this should be done to elevate the heroes of a nation. It’s time.. Thanks for sharing brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this thoughtful comment. I appreciate your deep concerns for the importance of highlighting heroes and heroines of our grand history. We are proud of them, but somehow historians failed to do justice to them. It’s my pleasure to share such inspiring stories. Thanks again!


    1. As you know, our history books need to be rewritten. There are so much distortions. But some state governments have included her in text books now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Kaushal, for such a wonderful post! The portrait of the special,
    and extraordinary woman we didn’t know about enriches us and motivates continuing her legacy of fighting injustice in all forms and educating everyone.
    Her name, Savitribai Phule, and her beautiful face will stay with me forever
    because of your wisdom, Kaushal, to share your knowledge
    of the history of India. Thank you.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Joanna, for appreciating the post. Normally I see in the morning whether there is anything special to share. If I don’t find anything, then I start writing a poetry. Today is her birthday, so I thought today to share about her. But I’m really happy that you liked it.


    1. It’s truly my pleasure to share story of such a courageous lady, who was illiterate, but later she started teaching to remove others’ illiteracy. Thank you, Grace 💖💐

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Grace! I’m happy you liked the post. In fact, I have great empathy with those who suffered a lot to ameliorate the conditions of the poor and deprived sections. Hence this post 😊💖

      Liked by 1 person

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