1899 First Women

Zaynab Fawwaz: Writer and historian

Zaynab Fawwaz (1860(?)-1914(?)) was most likely born into a working-class family of Tibnin, Lebanon. Little is known about her early life, including her date of birth but most sources agree that she was born in 1860. 1 As a young girl, she worked in the palace of Ali Bey al-Asʿad al-Saghir, the feudal prince of the region where the princess, provided her with tutoring and learning. 23

Fawwaz moved to Damascus following her marriage to Adib Nazmi al-Dimashqi, where she hosted a literary salon 4but considering the customs of the time for a veiled woman, she would need the support of her husband to run the salon.5

Fawwaz later moved to Egypt,6 where she would continue her education and publish a number of articles. Gender was a recurrent issue in Fawwaz’s articles, whether publishing her reflections or responding to others. This included calling for gender equality in education,7 refuting arguments on women’s essential inferiority,8 and arguing against the devaluation of women labor.9 In 1892, she republished her articles in her book Rasa’il Zaynabiyya. In 1899, she would publish a historical biographical dictionary of notable women titled al-Durr al-Manthur fi Tabaqat Rabbat al-Khudur 10. She also published Husn al-‘Awaqib aw Ghadat al-Zahirah in 1899.11 Fawwaz also published a play titled al-Hawa wal-Wafa in 1893. 12

Awareness of Zaynab’s work would gradually diminish but in her time, she was well known for her literary and feminist work. She is credited for opening the way for other women as writers and journalist.13


Radwa Ashour, Ferial Ghazoul, Hasna Reda-Mekdashi, Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide 1873-1999, American University in Cairo Press, 2008. The book is accessible on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/arabwomenwriters0000unse

Jūzīf Zaydān, Arab Women Novelists: The Formative Years and Beyond, Albany, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995. The book is accessible on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/arabwomennovelis0000zayd

Jomaa Waddah, التاريخ العاملي والرواية العربية الاولى« زينب فواز ». The link is no longer available but can be accessed through the way back machine on the following link: https://web.archive.org/web/20190916120439/http://www.bintjbeil.com/A/araa/011008_waddah.html

Emily Ibrahim Fares, الحركة النسائية اللبنانية, Beirut, Dar al-Thakafah.

Ishani Sharma, Leaving Her Footprint: Women’s Struggle for Power in French Syria & Lebanon 1920-1936, accessible on the following page: https://history.rutgers.edu/docman-docs/undergraduate/honors-papers-2012/409-leaving-her-footprint-women-s-struggle-for-power-in-french-syria-lebanon-1920-1936/file