Savitribai Phule - Mother of Women's Education in India
Savitribai Phule, our goddess of learning and knowledge - Savitribai was a "Vidya Jyoti" for all those who want to do something in the field of education.
Reading Paine's famous book "The Rights of Man" revolutionized the young mind of Jyotirao Phule and he in turn influenced the tender mind of Savitribhai, who also took an oath to help her husband in his fight for Social Revolution even at the cost of her life and comforts.
They jointly opened the very first Girl's School in 1848 against the vicious campaign launched by orthodox upper caste Hindus for such an act of the Phule couple, as education to girls was coded as unlawful in the laws of orthodox Hindus, although they claimed to possess the most knowledgeable books called “VEDAS”, but practically treating Shudras & women worse than animals. No upper caste Hindu teacher came forward to teach in this newly opened Girl's School in which Untouchable girls, besides Hindu girls were admitted. Therefore, Savitribai was appointed as Headmistress of this school on 1st January 1848 by Jyotirao Phule. This school was run from the house of a Brahmin in Budhwara Peth, with majority of Brahmin girl students. The orthodox Brahmins raised a great hue & cry against women's education including those of Shudra girls, which stood banned by Hindu scripture. ... they opened another school on 15th May 1848 in Untouchable's colony and it was run by her widowed sister–in-law Smt. Suganabai. On this again the reactionaries raised objections and threatened Govinda Rao (Jyotirao 's father) with dire consequences if he failed to dissociate himself from the activities of his son & daughter-in-law. So he asked the couple to leave his home as both of them refused to give up their missionary endeavor.
She was first Indian women leader, who worked for the upliftment & dignity of women & children and was a staunch opponent of orthodox laws including Untouchability. She was mother to helpless orphans, a teacher to illiterates and solace to the suffering masses. She deserves to be honored as the “Mother of Women Education in India”. She is even now a source of inspiration for establishing a rule based on equality, justice and fraternity. Let us draw inspiration from her life & work and re-dedicate ourselves for the service of the down trodden and Dalits, besides those sections of society who are deprived of equal opportunities of life.
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 Nallasopara in 1897. 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.