Patriotic Education and Women’s “Renewal”
In 1907, one writer labeled Iran’s women “the most unfortunate and the most miserable people of the world.” Because many lacked jobs, they became dependent on men for their economic livelihood. Despite having to endure such hardships, “ignorant, unfair men” refused to grant Iranian women any “rights of humanity” (huquq-i insaniyat).1 This provocative article, though fomenting little institutional change, was nonetheless a significant public recognition of the inherent need to honor the rights of Iranian women in the evolving political climate of early twentieth-century Iran. Prior to this, few public utterances openly addressed the inferior position of Iranian women or acknowledged their basic human rights, including their right to an education.
Two years later, another Iranian journalist reiterated the sentiment, conceding that his countrywomen mattered less than “the animals of other nations.” Although granted various privileges through Islamic law, or sharia’, they lacked “human rights” (huquq-i bashari).2 For sure, Iranian women lacked many basic political and social privileges. Much has been written about the failures of the Iranian constitution of 1906 and its denial of suffrage to women. Still, women pursued groundbreaking activities during those years.3 And to frame the story of Iranian women at the turn of the century