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Savitribai Phule

Savitribai Phule
Statue of Savitriai Phule and her husband, Jyotirao Phule
Born 3 January 1831
Died 10 March 1897

Savitribai Jyotirao Phule (3 January 1831 – 10 March 1897)[1] was an Indian social reformer. Along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule, she played an important role in improving women's rights in India during British rule. The couple founded the first women's school at Pune in 1848.[2] She is considered a pioneer of modern Marathi poetry.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Career 1.2
    • Death 1.3
  • Legacy 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


Early life

Savitribai Phule was born in 1831 at Naigaon in Maharashtra. Her family were farmers.[3] She married 13-year old Jyotirao Phule in 1840 when she was aged nine. The couple had no children of their own but adopted Yashavantrao, who was the son of a widowed Brahmin.[4]


Savitri realised that in addition to working on education it was necessary to work on other social fronts, to build up the self-esteem and confidence of women.

The practice of child marriages and high mortality rates in the 19th century meant girls often became child-widows. As was customary, the widow's head would be clean shaven to make her unattractive to other men. Savitribai and Jyotirao were moved by the plight of such widows and penalized the barbers by organizing a strike to persuade them not to shave the heads of widows.

Also, these helpless women, with no way to refuse this treatment, were easy prey for rapists. Widows who became pregnant due to rape would resort to suicide or killing the newborn for fear of being ostracized by the society.

Once, Jyotirao stopped a pregnant lady from committing suicide, promising her to give her child his name after it was born. Savitribai accepted the lady in her house and helped her deliver the child. Savitribai and Jyotirao later adopted this child, who grew up to become a doctor. This incident led the couple to open a "Delivery Home" for rape victims who became pregnant. The delivery home was called "Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha". Savitri ran the home and considered all the children born in the home her own.

Moved by the treatment of the untouchables, who were refused drinking water meant for the upper caste, both Jyotirao and Savitribai opened up their Well to the untouchables. In 1868, Savitribai welcomed untouchables to take water from her well.

Tiffany Wayne has described Phule as "one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists, and an important contributor to world feminism in general, as she was both addressing and challenging not simply the question of gender in isolation but also issues related to caste and casteist patriarchy."[3]


In 1897 the area was affected by the worldwide bubonic plague pandemic. Savitribai Phule and her adopted son opened a clinic and treated people at Sasane Mala, Hadapsar, near Pune, which was out of the city and free of infection. Savitribai personally took patients to the clinic where Yashwant treated them. It was as a consequence of her coming into touch with the illness that she contracted the disease herself. She died from it on 10 March 1897.


Two books of her poems were published posthumously, Kavya Phule (1934) and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar (1982).

The Government of Maharashtra has instituted an award in her name for Women Who Work Social Causes and in July 2014 it agreed to rename the Univeristy of Pune as Savitribai Phule Pune University.[5] The university was officially renamed on 9 November 2014.

On 10 March 1998 a stamp was released by India Post in honour of Phule.


  1. ^ Mahatmaphule
  2. ^ Mariam Dhawale. "AIDWA Observes Savitribai Phule Birth Anniversary". Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  3. ^ 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.  
  4. ^ 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.  
  5. ^ Kothari, Vishwas (8 July 2014). "Pune university to be renamed aftervSavitribai Phule". Times of India. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 

Further reading

  • A Forgotten Liberator – The Life And Struggle of Savitribai Phule, Mountain Peak Publishers, New Delhi ISBN 978-81-906277-0-2
  • Rao, Parimala V. (2002). "Educating Women - How and How Much: Women in the Context of Tilak's Swaraj". In Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi. Education and the Disprivileged: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century India. Orient Blackswan.  

External links

  • – Events, Life-sketch, Books, Poems, Photos of Bodhisattva Savitribai Phule
  • Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women's Studies, Pune University
  • [1]
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