This is my blonde


January 26, 2022

Huda Sha'arawi (Arabic: هدى شعراوي, Egyptian Arabic: هدى الشعراوي,) (June 23, 1879 – December 12, 1947) was an Egyptian feminist and nationalist. She grew up in the secluded world of the harem, and was one of the first Egyptian women to break free from the patriarchal harem system in which women were not allowed to go public. Sha'arawi was five when her father died. She was raised in the harem in which her mother and her father's first wife lived. At the age of 13, she was persuaded to marry her cousin, who was also her guardian. After a year she refused to meet her husband because he did not keep his promise to lead a monogamous life. In the years that she lived separately, she became acquainted with the feminist developments in Egypt. After seven years, Sha'arawi reconciled with her husband and through him became involved in the struggle against British rule. She chaired the Wafdist Women's Central Committee that collaborated with the Wafd resistance movement. In addition, she founded several organizations that contributed to the improvement of the position of the Egyptian woman. The most important was the Egyptian Feminist Union, which she chaired from its foundation in 1923 until her death. Sha'arawi was also one of the vice presidents of the International Alliance of Women for many years. From 1936, Sha'arawi expanded its activities to other countries in the Middle East. She became an ardent defender of Palestinian rights and co-founded the Arab Feminist Union. She also chaired this organization, which became operational in 1945, until her death. In the last years of her life, Sha'arawi dictated her memoirs to her secretary. In 1986 an edited and annotated English version was published, which a year later appeared in a Dutch translation under the title Harem Jaar. Through her role in the Egyptian liberation movement, Sha'arawi has made a significant contribution to the modern Egyptian nation-state. Although she failed to achieve women's suffrage during her lifetime, restrict wide-ranging divorce options for men, and outlaw polygamy, Sha'arawi's contributions to the emancipation of Egyptian women are widely recognised.

Young years


Huda Sha'arawi, maiden name Noor Al-Huda Sultan, was born in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya as the daughter of Muhammad Sultan (1825–1884) and his concubine Iqbal Hanim (c. 1860–1914). Sha'awari's father was a landowner who held high positions in provincial and state government. His official title was Sultan Pasha; because of his rank and wealth he was sometimes called King of Upper Egypt. He had little education and spoke only Arabic, but he read a lot of poetry, had a large library, and among his friends were poets, sheikhs, provincial governors, statesmen, and other high-ranking men. He received such figures as the infamous Sudanese slave trader and army chief Zubayr Pasha and the Coptic patriarch Cyril IV. Sultan Pasha owned two residences, one in Minya where Sha'arawi was born and one in Cairo where she grew up. Sha'arawi's mother was a Cherkessian. The ruling Egyptian class – because of their 'legendary beauty' – preferred Cherkessian girls as wives or concubines. They had a status of their own and gave prestige to the family. Sha'arawi's mother had fled the Caucasus with her mother in the 1960s as a little girl and had grown up in Cairo. She had been acquired by Sultan Pasha when he moved to Cairo for his position, and became his last companion. Although it was customary for a man to marry his concubine when children came, Sultan Pasha did not marry his concubine Iqbal Hanim.

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