REVIEW by Robert Harris 21 March2017The Calling Tahirih of Persia and her American ContemporariesThe Calling is an amazing book about the worldwide emancipation of women Women colleagues of mine and thousands of others who have worked ceaselessly to advance the global safety, education, status of women should be pleased that this tightly woven, 308 page homage to brave women leaders, was written by two men Hussein Ahdieh, born in Iran, is a respected educator in New York City Hillary Chapman is a teacher, poet, writer and songwriter, born in Washington.
Imagine Accomplished and published male researchers and writers, devoting their powerful talents to tell a story of women in the 1800s, women from wildly diverse circumstances, who were called to confront the intractable opposition to equal opportunities for women.
This writing team has a history of vividly telling the stories of many powerful and successful women in previous books Awakening, A Way Out of No Way, and Abdu l Baha in New York Here, however, their entire focus in The Calling shines their powerful research laser beam on the legendary leaders of gender equity in the West, and introduces many to a compelling and transformative religious and literary figure, Tahirih.
This should be a film What a swirl of activity Change was at hand Amid the backdrop in America of the Great Awakening, the revivalist movements, the Second Coming fervor, the abolitionists, and Seneca Falls, we meet women who were, for the first time, speaking in public before audiences of women AND men They were the founders of religious movements, suffragettes, reformers, novelists, journalists, opponents of slavery, war and alcohol You will meet women such as Ellen G White, Mary Baker Eddy, Mother Ann Lee, Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Dorothea Dix, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Moore Grimke and her sister Angelina, Mary Ann McClintock, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Olympia Brown, Lizzie Doten, Cora Hatch, Fannie Burbank, Elizabeth Lowe Watson, Paula Wright Davis, Harriet Hunt, and Ernestine Rose In a total rupture of traditional roles, they were to be found on stages, at podiums, organizing conferences and regularly quoted in the newspapers of their day These luminous names are some of the agents of change of what we, today, consider to be western civilization They were the mighty stirrers of the cauldron of change as society itself was being re formed.
Across the world, in many ways a totally different world, practically alone, was Tahirih, a brilliant Persian woman who was most rare because she was literate She wrote poems, boldly delivered fiery speeches directly to men a recognized leader whose brazen methods provoked tremendous agitation within and without of the infant religion that would soon be known as the Baha i Faith.
She personally and openly challenged every convention of civil behavior known in the entire Middle East Essentially she believed herself to be an equal with men, and she did not hesitate to exercise her birthright as a human being Her searing story of challenging what is, to this day, a totally male dominated culture, is meticulously documented by the gifted Ahdieh and Chapman, with the help of some glorious translations of her famous poetry The authors construct a compelling narrative of her life and her ardent desire to free women from the ancient shackles of orthodoxy and ignorance Her vision, her struggle, and her eventual murder have inspired many girls and women in Iran and beyond artists, authors, musicians, and even human rights lawyers have been motivated by her spirit and her story.
Tragically, poetically and powerfully, even her shameful execution gives her an opportunity to express her hopeful spirit As she is strangled, she utters her dying words You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women The episodes that juxtapose East and West are knitted together artfully in The Calling These stories serve as a reminder that hundreds of millions of human beings live their daily lives in constraints physical, psychological, political, religious and traditional Too many have their feet bound, are kept hidden and veiled, are married as children, are mutilated at puberty, are denied education, are silent prisoners within their own lives The entire human race is in great need of emancipation not just women are suffering All of humanity pays the price for this loss of opportunity.
I am so proud of these two men, who continue to raise their talented voices to rid our world, once and for all time, of the scourge, the shame, and the virus of prejudice and gross inequality.
Robert HarrisPrinceton, New Jersey In their forthcoming book The Calling Tahirih of Persia and her American Contemporaries authors Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman celebrate one of the world s pre eminent champions of the emancipation of women and basic human rights Such a book could not be timelier Today the topic of basic human rights especially the rights of women is passionately debated in the halls of government and centres of worship everywhere.
Both Ahdieh and Chapman visually set the scene of women in society in both Persia and America Women s rights, privations, and obligations are explored.
T hirih pronounced taw hair eh , meaning The Pure One was born F timah Baragh n in c.
1817 in the northern Persian city Qazv n From childhood T hirih exhibited deep piety and intellectual brilliance so much so that her father, a high ranking cleric, permitted her to undertake higher Islamic studies which were then reserved to men alone Even as a youngster she won a reputation for scholarship and debate.
What draws the Western reader into this setting is how the authors play off the role of women in Persia against that of American women in the 19th century Not unlike a compelling screenplay they cut back and forth from Persia to America where we easily sympathize with the sufferings and privations of women in both societies.
In those days Persian women were cloistered at home and sequestered behind robes called chadors when out in public Women were invisible and mute at that time.
American women were neither invisible nor mute but had little outlet for their talents and faculties They were the weaker sex confined to the tasks of home making and child rearing, in ways not unlike their Persian counterparts.
In both Persian and American society the spirit of a new religious awakening was sweeping through society Women responded to this new calling which inevitably brought them into conflict with men, who dominated government and religion in both settings.
In the West it was the Great Awakening and the anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ In Persia there was an expectation among followers of some Muslim denominations of the appearance of a Promised One Religion became the vehicle that propelled women in both societies to make advances for their sex.
Back and forth the authors take us from Persia as we follow the progress of Tahirih to America were women are slowly insinuating themselves into popular causes and writing and speaking to defend those causes And back to Persia where we learn about the youthful B b, and the incredible response to His Teachings which included the now eloquent poetess T hirih.
Surprisingly it was the separation of church and state in America that created public education and gave a place to girls to be educated equally with boys, at least in lower education We learn that by mid 19th century American girls are in public schools on a par with their male counterparts.
In America freedom of religion was guaranteed by The Bill of Rights In Persia people were not free to believe as they wished if those beliefs ran counter to interpretations of a powerful Shi ih clergy who could order them arrested and even killed.
Ahdieh and Chapman review the fascinating account of William Miller, who ultimately predicted Christ s return in October 1844 and whose Millerite Movement initially attracted thousands Back in Persia 1844 was the exact year in which the B b arose to proclaim the Advent of the Promised One of All Religions was at hand.
Back in Persia T hirih had found an ideal outlet for her passion and eloquence poetry The authors make judicious use of T hirih s poetry to express her sentiments and flights of spiritual ecstasy.
For example, she champions the cause of the Promised One with lines such as these Lovers Creation veils his face noLovers, look He himself is visible Order, justice, law are now possible.
Minds in darkness now burn light with knowledgeTell the priest Shut your books Lock the temple The B b had not come to renew Islam by reviving the old traditions and institutions but by bringing a new divine revelation to reinvigorate the inner lives of people A corrupt Shi i clergy attempted to slander T hirih s character and morals The B b Himself stepped forward declared her pure and one of His Letters of the Living.
By mid century in the U.
A women were participating and playing important roles in all the major social reform movements the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance 1826 , the American Peace Society 1828 , the American Anti Slavery Society 1833 , and the American Female Reform Society 1834.
It is tragic to relate how T hirih prepared herself for her martyrdom by dressing as a bride preparing for her bridegroom So frightened were Persian authorities of a backlash that would result from her daytime execution that she was ordered strangled in the darkness of night Before her execution she gave expression to these deathless words You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women The authors of The Call skillfully weave the existing fragments of T hirih s life into a seamless tapestry of U.
, Persian and B b Bah history.
This book should be part of every high school and university literature course The issues it raises should be discussed today as the station of women is still pathetically below that of men in nearly every aspect of life.
Dr Duane K TroxelEvanston, Illinois