Google today celebrates educator and feminist icon Fatima Sheikh, widely regarded as India’s first Muslim teacher, with a doodle. Sheikh, along with fellow pioneers and social reformers Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule, co-founded the Indigenous Library in 1848, one of India’s first schools for girls.
Fatima Sheikh was born on this day in 1831 in Pune. She lived with her brother Usman, and the siblings opened their home to the Phules after the couple was evicted for trying to educate people of lower castes. The native library opened under the roof of the sheikhs. Here, Savitribai Phule and Fatima Sheikh taught communities of marginalized Dalit and Muslim women and children who were not educated on the basis of class, religion or gender.
A lifelong champion of this equality movement, Sheikh went door to door inviting the oppressed in her community to learn in the native library and escape the rigidity of the Indian caste system. She met much resistance from the dominant classes who tried to humiliate those involved in the Satyashodhak movement, but Sheikh and her allies persisted.
The Indian government shed new light on Fatima Sheikh’s achievements in 2014 by including her profile in Urdu textbooks along with other pioneering educators.