Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Savitribai Phule’s impact on women’s education in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule and thier legacy

Mains level: Pioneers of women education in the colonial India

Yesterday, January 3rd was birth anniversary of one of India’s first modern feminists and a social reformer Savitribai Phule. She is especially remembered for being India’s first female teacher who worked for the upliftment of women and untouchables in the field of education and literacy.

Who was Savitribai Phule?

  • Phule was born in Naigaon, Maharashtra in 1831 and married activist and social-reformer Jyotirao Phule when she was nine years old.
  • After marriage, with her husband’s support, Phule learned to read and write and both of them eventually went on to found India’s first school for girls called Bhide Wada in Pune in 1948.
  • Before this, she started a school with Jyotirao’s cousin Saganbai in Maharwada in 1847.
  • Since at that time the idea of teaching girls was considered to be a radical one, people would often throw dung and stones at her as she made her way to the school.
  • Significantly, it was not easy for the Phule’s to advocate for the education of women and the untouchables since in Maharashtra a nationalist discourse was playing out between 1881-1920 led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • These nationalists including Tilak opposed the setting up of schools for girls and non-Brahmins citing loss of nationality.

Her work

  • Essentially, both Jyotirao and Savitribai recognised that education was one of the central planks through which women and the depressed classes could become empowered and hope to stand on an equal footing with the rest of the society.
  • The Phules started the Literacy Mission in India between 1854-55.
  • They started the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society for Truth-Seeking), through which they wanted to initiate the practice of Satyashodhak marriage, in which no dowry was taken.
  • Because of the role played in the field of women’s education, she is also considered to be one of the “crusaders of gender justice”.
  • Her books of poems “Kavya Phule” and “Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar” were published in 1934 and 1982.

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4 years ago

India’s first school for girls called Bhide Wada in Pune in 1848, not 1948.


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