Nabila Ramdani


The formation of a feminist consciousness in Egypt ran parallel with the country’s rapid development as a modern state at the start of the 19th century. Technological advancements within Muhammad Ali’s increasingly capitalistic, secular country were accompanied by burgeoning intellectual thought among all sections of society, including women. By the end of the century, a middle-class female literary culture had become indelibly associated with a nationwide feminist awakening.

The feminist element to the wider independence movement was both vocal and powerful, as women rallied under the ‘Egypt for the Egyptians’ slogan. Elite women who had organised themselves politically had first taken part in nationalist demonstrations in March 1919, and were to become a critical force in achieving the partial removal of the British from Egypt in 1922. Nationalism also became a vehicle for specific feminist demands.

So it was that two dynamic and overlapping ideologies – nationalist and feminist – combined to create a formidable campaigning force which would have a compelling effect on the progress of Egyptian society. Radical calls for change being made by a pioneering women’s movement strengthened the nationalist cause. In turn, feminists gained from their close association with the nationalists, using their connections to build up their own power base.

Author Biography

Nabila Ramdani, PhD Candidate, Department of International History, The London School of Economics and Political Science