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13. The ‘Tomboy’ and the ‘Aristocrat’: Nabawiyya Mûsâ and Malak Hifnî Nâsif, Pioneers of Egyptian Feminism

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Chapter Summary

A provincial region of the Ottoman Empire since 1517, Egypt was under de facto occupation by Great Britain since 1882, yet it enjoyed considerable autonomy under the rule of the khedives. Feminine profiles began to evolve under the triple influence of British colonization, modernization led by the viceroys, and the arrival of mixed populations from the Mediterranean into the large cities. This chapter studies about two authors, the first, Malak Hifnî Nâsif, embodied the early promise and potential of the Turkish model by which she herself was inspired, only to be later, and painfully, confronted with Egyptian realities. The second author, Nabawiyya Mûsâ lived to personify a more authentically Egyptian version of the modern woman employed, unveiled, independent. Nabawiyya Mûsâ and Malak Hifnî Nâsif are both associated in the collective memory with the first generation of Muslim women to emerge from the harems of the elite to play a public role.

Keywords:Egyptian feminism; Malak Hifnî Nâsif; Muslim; Nabawiyya Mûsâ; Ottoman Empire



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