Biography: Fatima Sheikh, Social Reformer,

Fatima Sheikh

On January 9, 1831, Fatima Sheikh was born. She was an Indian schoolteacher and social reformer who worked with Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule, two other social reformers.  She is largely regarded as India’s first Muslim female educator.


On the 19th anniversary of Fatima Sheikh’s birth, Google honored her with a doodle on January 9, 2022.


Fatima Sheikh was Mian Usman Sheikh’s sister, and Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule lived at Mian Usman Sheikh’s home. She began teaching Bahujan youngsters at Phules’ school as one of the first Muslim women instructors in modern India. Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule, together with Fatima Sheikh, were in charge of bringing education to the poor.

Sheikh met Savitribai Phule while both were students at Cynthia Farrar, an American missionary who ran a teacher training school. She was a teacher at all five of the Phules’ subsequent schools, where she taught children of different religions and castes. In 1851, Sheikh helped to establish two schools in Mumbai (then Bombay).

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Sheikh walked door-to-door in her neighborhood, inviting the poor to learn at the Indigenous Library and escape the rigidity of the Indian caste system, as a lifetime champion of this campaign for equality. Sheikh and her friends faced stiff opposition from the ruling classes, who sought to humiliate individuals participating in the Satyashodhak movement, but they persisted.

The Indian government shone new light on Fatima Sheikh’s achievements in 2014 by featuring her profile in Urdu textbooks alongside other trailblazing educators.