Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid tributes to 19th century social reformer Savitribai Jyotirao Phule on her 187th birth anniversary and said that the nation was “deeply guided” by her ideals.

“I bow to the great Savitribai Phule on her Jayanti. Hers was a life devoted to the empowerment of the poor and marginalized,” Modi said in a tweet.

“She gave utmost importance to education and social reform. We are deeply guided by her ideals and are working tirelessly towards fulfilling her vision,” he said further.

Among the country’s first to speak up for the rights of women, Savitribai K. Patil was born on January 3, 1831, in a rich and influential farming family and at the age of nine was married off to the 13-year old Jyotirao Phule.

She was taught to read and write by her husband and when she turned 17, the couple founded India’s first school for girls and women in Bhidewada, Pune.

The Phule couple – who had no children of their own – launched a crusade against social discrimination based on caste and gender, and sparked the flame for women’s equal rights during the British rule in India.

At a time when women had no say in anything, Savitribai’s campaign covered child marriages, child widows, rape victims becoming pregnant, the practice of ‘Sati’, educating women and fighting for equal rights for all women.

The Phules had set up 18 more schools across the state of which Savitribai was the teacher, headmistress and principal.