May Her Likes Be Multiplied: Biography and Gender Politics in Egypt

By Marilyn Booth | Go to book overview

1
Scattered Pearls and
Mistresses of Seclusion

Zaynab Fawwaz, Arabic Biographical Writing,
and a Canon of Female Visibility

She was by nature a poet, refined and excellent, acute and intelligent. Her face held a hint of beauty; her loveliness was belles-lettres, and her adornment the eloquence of the Arabs.

Zaynab Fawwaz, “'A'isha al-Ba'uniyya, ”
al-Durr al-manthar fi tabaqat rabbat al-khudar, 1894

This woman remains a paragon of goodness and initiative, never tiring of writing, always working to advance and benefit the girls of her kind. May God increase her likes among the women who have adopted paper as their mirror and ink as their tint and dye— those women who have made literature their jewelry and the branches of knowledge their cloaks.

“Shahirat al-nisa: al-Sayyida Zaynab Fawwaz, ”
Fatat al-sharq, 1907

Lababa Hashim (c. 1880–1947) had published her monthly magazine Fatat al-sharq (Young Woman of the East) just twice when, in December 1906, she announced a new feature: “We have launched this department to publish items about women famed for their refinement and knowledge. We entreat women to turn their attention to this subject, for they might find both delectation and benefit therein. ” 1 Hashim's proclamation prefaced a three-page biography of the late Turco-Egyptian poet 'A'isha Taymar.

Word for word, this biography had appeared twelve years earlier in Zaynab Fawwaz's Scattered Pearls on the Generations of the Mistresses of Seclusion.2 In Young Woman of the East it carried no byline. 3 When, five months later, Hashim featured a biography of Zaynab Fawwaz herself, she remarked that “the toil [Fawwaz] put into this tome is evident, the valuable time it took her, over and above the household duties that were hers. ” 4 Hashim was to draw on this “toil” extensively in forming the parade of “Famous Women” that would march beneath the masthead of her longrunning magazine.

-1-

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May Her Likes Be Multiplied: Biography and Gender Politics in Egypt
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Technical Note xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • 1 - Zaynab Fawwaz, Arabic Biographical Writing, and a Canon of Female Visibility 1
  • 2 - A Politics of Address 35
  • 3 - Biography in the Journal for Women 62
  • 4 - Readers, Writers, Teachers 109
  • 5 - Discursive Domesticities 171
  • 6 - Community, Identity, and Difference 233
  • 7 - Women's Biography as Spectacle 270
  • 8 - Gender, Nation, and Life Writing in Today's Egypt 281
  • Notes 311
  • Selected Bibliography 427
  • Index 443
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