Egyptian Women's Union

views updated


Women's rights organization.

Often called the Egyptian Feminist Union, the Egyptian Women's Union was founded by Huda al-Shaʿrawi in 1923 to demand voting rights for women in Egypt. It also spearheaded the rejection of the veil by Egyptian women as a step toward their emancipation. After opening a women's clubhouse in Cairo, the group published monthly journals in both French and Arabic, ran a clinic and a dispensary for poor women and children, and established child-care centers for working mothers. As a result of their actions, the government set a minimum marriage age and opened its first secondary school for girls. As the Palestine conflict intensified, the Egyptian Women's Union convened an Arab women's conference in 1938 and another in 1944; it thus laid the groundwork for the Arab Feminist Union, which elected Huda al-Shaʿrawi as its first president. Following her death in 1947, the Egyptian Women's Union was eclipsed by other feminist groups that attracted younger women. After the 1952 revolution, the union's functions were taken over by government ministries, and it faded away.

See also Shaʿrawi, Huda al-.


Keddie, Nikki R., and Baron, Beth, eds. Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

Shaarawi, Huda. Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist (18791924), translated by Margot Badran. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1987.

arthur goldschmidt