1913 First Women

Mayy Ziyadah: A pioneering essayist, lecturer, literary critic, translator, and feminist

Although mistaken for an Egyptian, Mayy Ziyadah is a Lebanese-Palestinian poet who is mostly known for her cultural salon, which she started hosting in 1913 1 . The salon was a bastion for Egyptian and non-Egyptian intellectual giants. It convened every Tuesday, and was frequented by more than 30 attendants. It provided a space for young writers and poets to meet “the elite of the Arab intelligentsia” 2. Apart from her salon, Ziyadah is considered to be one of the first Arab feminists, as she was concerned with the women’s emancipation movement that took place during the time of the Nahda and onwards. She objected to the “exclusion” of women from official and mainstream historiography, and was a strong advocate of the role that women ought to play in the arts.