The Google Doodle today, June 23, pays homage to Egyptian women’s rights activist Nour Al-Huda Mohamed Sultan Shaarawi on what would have been her 141st birthday. Here’s everything you need to know about her:
On June 23, 1897, approximately 152 miles south of Cairo, Shaarawi was born into the prestigious El-Shaarawi family. With her father, Muhamed Sultan Pasha El-Shaarawi the president of Egypt’s Chamber of Deputies, Shaarawi from an early age, was heavily involved with academia and the arts. Growing up under the guidance of female instructors in Cairo; she learned a number of languages including Quranic Arabic and often engaged in poetry, writing both in Arabic and French.
Growing up in Egypt, Shaarawi begrudged the archaic expectations of women at the time. Mobilizing her resentment into action, she spent her days curating lectures for women on various topics she believed would be of interest to them. In a revolutionary act, her inclination to teach brought many of the women around her, out of their homes for the first time. Using the opportunity to establish a women’s welfare society, Shaarawi went on to raise money for poor women in the country, before opening a school for girls that focused on the propagation of academic excellence instead of domestic servitude.
Turning her sight to politics, Shaarawi later played an important role in the Egyptian Revolution of 1919. Leading women protestors fighting for independence against Britain, Shaarawi and her husband, Ali Pasha Shaarawi worked together during the revolution, with Shaarawi later going on to form the Wafdist Women’s Central Committee, a political committee in support of the Wafd party, to which Shaarawi was elected president. Shortly after the revolution ended, Shaarawi continued her work in the advancement of women’s rights attending conferences and organizing local grassroots movements. Upon returning from the 1922 International Woman Suffrage Congress in Rome, Shaarawi took to the streets of Cairo where she removed her veil in public, trampled it with her feet, and thus began a feminist movement heavily lauded by some and denounced by others.