Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Member

Dr. Amit Bein, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. James Burns

Committee Member

Dr. Mashal Saif


In the first half of the twentieth century, during Egypt's "liberal age," middle- and upper- class Egyptian women carved a place for themselves in the public sphere. For the first time, women publically demanded social and political rights that had been withheld in Egypt's traditionally patriarchal society. Female figures emerged as leaders of the Egyptian women's movement, and the media followed the actions of these leaders and attempted to glimpse parts of their private affairs. As pioneering feminists, they were the first generation of women to be publically scrutinized by the media. Although the feminist movement during this period was typically associated with a few upper-class women, feminist activism had a variety of manifestations, or "faces." This thesis explores the lives of three of these faces of feminism: Huda Shaarawi, Doria Shafik, and Umm Kulthum. By using their personal memoirs and writings, newspaper articles, and a number of secondary sources, it attempts to reconstruct their individual lives and to discern the ways in which each woman handled constant public attention, particularly the degree to which they allowed the media access into their private lives. Although they came from different socioeconomic backgrounds and had varying feminist visions and strategies, regular public scrutiny impacted the line between their public endeavors and private affairs. The separation between public and private varied for each feminist: while Shaarawi and Shafik maintained a fluid boundary between public and private, allowing for the exposure of certain aspects of their private lives, Umm Kulthum attempted to harden the line between her public career and private life. Ultimately, each woman's life presents a prism through which to discern the opportunities open for women during Egypt's liberal age, as well as the challenges they faced. Shaarawi, Shafik, and Umm Kulthum represent different experiences within the women's movement, and all three women contributed to the transformation of women's roles in Egyptian society.



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