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The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and her American Contemporaries Paperback – March 21, 2017
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Tahirih of Persia and her American contemporaries "
Dr. Dorothy Marcic
Ahdieh and Chapman's book, The Calling,is engaging and illuminating. How many knew that the women's movementwas born of women leaders and speakers in the First Great Awakening,that time of American evangelical religious fervor around 1740? Or howimportant the voice of female slaves was to the growing emergence ofwomen's independent spirit? And then the shift to an as-yet unknownwoman in Persia. Tahirih the poet was born in the women's wing of herfamily home and "grew up in a world bounded by the lattice work on thewalls." Against tradition, her father had the courage to educate her,and she became well-known for her eloquence and mastery of manysubjects. Added to her unique status was the fact that she became anearly follower of what is now the Baha'i Faith, a religion that taught,even back then, that women should have equal rights to men.
Movingback and forth between the two struggles in such distant lands, theauthors skillfully illustrate the common themes of what might otherwiseseem as disparate social phenomenon. The book reads smoothly, and thereader wants to keep turning the page to find out what happens. Howunusual is such writing in a work as thoroughly researched andreferenced as The Calling. Writing such as this is not easy, and yet the authors make it appear as effortless as an autumn leaf blowing in achilly wind.
If you think women's rights are important, or you arejust curious about how women first started to aspire to equal justice,read The Calling. You will not be disappointed.
Review by Judge Dorothy Nelson :
Review by Dr.Amrollah Hemmat
The Calling is a book of tears and laughter, yetfactual and rich with insightful historical, social and psychological analysis.It brings to life mesmerizing but forgotten stories of the 18th- 19thcentury heroines of America and their contemporary Tahirih, a martyred woman ofPersia--their spiritual ecstasy and zeal, high-mindedness, courageousundertakings, unwavering faith, and steadfastness. Through the power their pen, or by passionate publicspeeches, these women introduced novel humanitarian discourses and altered,globally and permanently, the public opinion about their gender; and they didso at a time when the female gender was not allowed to be visible or heard in thepublic sphere, valued only for "passivity, emotionality, and physical weakness."
Their support of various causes, be it women's suffrage,abolitionism, Indian rights, opposition to capital punishment, temperance, orthe support of the marginalized populations, led not only to the eventual realization of many of their altruisticobjectives, but also to a change in the social status of women, allowing themto go to universities, preach, and fill jobs they had never done or been permittedto do--journalism, nursing, teaching, factory and clerical work and even being employedas spies and soldiers. This was merely a humble beginning for the redemption ofhalf of the population of the world from their eternal condemnation. The bookdemonstrates, with detailed historical evidence, how these groundbreakingsocial changes took place in the cultural context of messianic beliefs--driven bythe expectation of the Christians in the US and the Moslems in Persia for theadvent of the Day of the End, the era of the fulfillment of eschatological prophesies.
The timing cannot be more appropriate for the publication ofthis invaluable book: at the brink of the 21st century, when Eastis East and Wet is West no longer, when we witness, globally, women ofvarious races, ethnicities and creeds, raising their voices for the cause ofjustice, compassion and love, echoing Tahirih's calling of hope and faith:
Injustice will be convicted by the power of justice.
Ignorance will be defeated by the power of thought.
Everywhere the carpet of equity will be rolled out.
Everywhere the seeds of amity will be scattered.
At this point in history when attempts for global unity, sympathy,justice, and equity feel ever so trying--as challenging as they were twocenturies back--may Tahirih's far reaching sagacity inform the vision of allwomen and men of insight and faith:
The reignof disunity will be vanquished from all regions,
Diversepeoples of the world will become one nation.
Review by Prof.Michael Penn
I have read, with enormous delight and humility, your learned andbeautifully written chronicle. And while I am in no position to judgethe accuracy of the history, I can say that the whole work hasstimulated within me a hunger to learn more about the period and aboutthe great women whose lives you have so richly captured.
Review by Dr. Duane K. Troxel.
The authors of this book- Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman celebrate one of the world'spre-eminent champions of the emancipation of women and basic human rights. Such a bookcould not be timelier. Today the topic of basic human rights--especially the rights ofwomen--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 andAmerica. Women's rights, privations, and obligations are explored.Táhirih (pronounced taw-hair- eh), meaning "The Pure One" was born Fátimah Baraghání inc.1817 in the northern Persian city Qazvín. From childhood Táhirih exhibited deep piety andintellectual brilliance; so much so that her father, a high ranking cleric, permitted her toundertake higher Islamic studies which were then reserved to men alone.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 19 th 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 invisible and mute at that time.American women were neither invisible nor mute but had little outlet for their talents andfaculties. 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 sweepingthrough society. Women responded to this new calling which inevitably brought them intoconflict 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 ofChrist". In Persia there was an expectation among followers of some Muslim denominations ofthe 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--toAmerica were women are slowly insinuating themselves into popular causes and writing andspeaking to defend those causes. And back to Persia where we learn about the youthful Báb,and the incredible response to His Teachings which included the now eloquent poetess Táhirih.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.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 ultimatelypredicted Christ's return in October 1844 and whose Millerite Movement initially attractedthousands. Back in Persia 1844 was the exact year in which the Báb arose to proclaim theAdvent of the Promised One of All Religions was at hand."The Báb had not come to renew Islam by reviving the old traditions and institutions but bybringing a new divine revelation to reinvigorate the inner lives of people."..........It is tragic to relate how Táhirih prepared herself for her martyrdom by dressing as a bridepreparing for her bridegroom and giving expression to these deathless words: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women."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.
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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.
Táhirih (pronounced taw-hair-eh), meaning “The Pure One” was born Fátimah Baraghání in c.1817 in the northern Persian city Qazvín. From childhood Táhirih 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 Báb, and the incredible response to His Teachings which included the now eloquent poetess Táhirih.
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 Báb arose to proclaim the Advent of the Promised One of All Religions was at hand.
Back in Persia Táhirih had found an ideal outlet for her passion and eloquence: poetry. The authors make judicious use of Táhirih’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 no more!
Lovers, look! He himself is visible!
Order, justice, law are now possible.
Minds in darkness now burn light with knowledge
Tell the priest. Shut your books! Lock the temple!
“The Báb 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 Táhirih’s character and morals. The Báb Himself stepped forward declared her pure and one of His ‘Letters of the Living’.
By mid-century in the U.S.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 Táhirih 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 Táhirih’s life into a seamless tapestry of U.S., Persian and Bábí-Bahá’í 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. Troxel
The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and her American Contemporaries
The 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.
Princeton, New Jersey