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

By Marilyn Booth | Go to book overview

2
Siting Biography
A Politics of Address

As a child, [Qadriyya Husayn, daughter of Sultan Husayn] preferred perusing the pages of illustrated magazines and asking about what she saw there to playing with dolls…. She wrote many books, the most important of which in our opinion is Book of the Egyptian Queens.

“Al-Amira Qadriyya Husayn, ”Mothers of the Future, 1930

Halide Edip is the lady to whom leadership of the women's awakening in Turkey eventually came, without any effort on her part to acquire this position, in the view of both the strong and gentle sexes. This is contrary to what we witness among certain literary ladies of the other countries [in the region], who have been set on making the ears of others ring with the words that woman has rights now suppressed, that between woman and man lies an enigma women must solve by striving to speak publicly and to write what is in their interest.

Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib, “SN: al-Sayyida Khalida Adib, ”
Young Woman of the East, 1922

Qadriyya Husayn, Turkish princess in Egypt, wrote about Egyptian queens and early Muslim women. She carried on the work of Fawwaz and, like her, privileged some features of the tabaqat tradition and muted others. These shifts emerged also in biographies of “Famous Women” (shahirat alnisa')—of Fawwaz, Husayn, and hundreds of others—that appeared in periodicals in Egypt targeted largely at women as subject and audience, and edited primarily by women. For, from its emergence in 1892, “the women's press” (al-sihafa al-nisa'iyya) celebrated famous women, borrowing texts from Fawwaz and Husayn, and writing many others. We have already watched Labiba Hashim editing life stories taken from Scattered Pearls, carrying Fawwaz's shifts further: focusing more keenly on the subject's own life, minimizing her role as a link in a chain; intimating a political justification for the gendered manipulation of a rhetoric of exemplarity and precedent; inserting an intrusive and generalizing narrative voice that points up that justification; flooding the text with attributive adjectives and

-35-

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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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