Armenian Women

in search of Herstory

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Alenoush Terian-Ալենուշ Տերյան

Հայ կանայք 1

First Iranian female astronomer and physicist

She was born in1920 to an Armenian family in Tehran, Iran. After graduating in 1947 from the Science Department of the University of Tehran, she began her career in the physics laboratory of the same University. She was promoted the same year as the chief of laboratory operations.

In 1956, she left for France to continue her studies at the Sorbonne and obtain a doctorate in Atmospheric Physics. When she returned to Tehran, she became an assistant professor in thermodynamics and later on worked specifically on Solar Physics. She also traveled to Germany on a scholarship to further her research and studies and upon her return, she founded and directed the solar observatory of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Tehran until her retirement in 1979.

She died on March 4, 2011.

You can read an article about her, here.

Ալենուշ Տերյան


Աստղագետ և ֆիզիկոս, համարվում է իրանական աստղագիտության մայրը:

Anahit Tsitsikian ֊ ԱՆԱՀԻՏ ՑԻՑԻԿՅԱՆ

Հայ կանայք 2

First renowned Armenian woman-violinist

Born in St-Petersburg in 1926, she began playing the violin at the age of six. At the beginning of World War II, she moved to Armenia and studied at the Yerevan state conservatory from 1946 to 1950 where she was granted the Stalin Scholarship. In 1954 she completed her graduate course at the Moscow State Conservatory.

She began performing professionally at elementary school age; her performances included many solo performances as well as with symphonic orchestras. Beginning in 1961 she became the principal soloist of the Armenian Philharmonic Hall. Ms. Tsitsikian performed throughout the Republics of the former Soviet Union and in 27 countries around the world.

Starting in 1950, she worked as a professor at the Yerevan State Conservatory, and she established three new courses in its curriculum: The History and Theory of Bowed Instruments, The History of Armenian Performing Arts, and A Course of Music Teaching Practice.

During her artistic life Professor Anahit Tsitsikian performed in more than 1000 recitals, recorded sixty pieces of archived music and authored more than 300 articles and scenarios for many radio and television programs.

You can listen to her performances here.

Seza – Սեզա

Հայ կանայք 3

Writer, Journalist, Women’s Rights

Her real name was Siran Zarifian and she was born in Constantinople.  There she attended the American College for girls until the early 1920s when she left for Beirut, Lebanon.  She pursued her studies at Columbia University and obtained an M.A. in Journalism and Literature. She returned to Beirut after completing her studies and launched her well-known periodical, Yeridasart Hayuhin – Young Armenian Woman –  (1932-34 / 1946-1968)

“Yeridasart Hayuhi made an especially important contribution as a proponent of women’s rights, education and empowerment” – Zeitlian (2000)

You can find her books and copies of the journal at the Derian Library/Haykazyan University in Lebanon.

You can read online some of her short stories here.



Գրող, լրագրող, կանանց իրավունքների ակտիվիստ

Arlene Avakian (1939- )


Feminist Scholar, Women’s Studies Director

She helped found the University of Massachusetts Women’s Studies Program and what is now known as the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.  Avakian is the author of Lion Woman’s Legacy: An Armenian American Memoir (1992); editor of Through the Kitchen Window: Women Writers Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking (1997); and co-editor of African American Women and the Vote 1837-1965 (1997), in addition to numerous articles. She taught courses on autobiography, activism, and the social construction of whiteness and women. She is also a political activist both on an off campus, working for social justice. She retired recently after 35 years of teaching and directing the Program.


To read her recent work, From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies you can go here.

You can also access here , some of her online papers and articles.

Meline Manouchian (1913-1989)


Militant in the French Resistance, Political Activist

Meline was born in 1913 in Constantinople – her maiden name was Asadurian . During the Genocide of 1915, at the age of 4 she lost her parents and ended up in an orphanage in Greece.

In 1926, the orphanage moved to Marseille and Meline continued her school there.

After graduating from high school she moved to Paris where she met her future husband the militant, Missak Manouchian. She was very active in the local Armenian community.  In 1938, she was elected as head of the Armenian French Democratic Union.

When the war started in 1939, and the Nazis occupied Paris, Melinee joined the French Resistance and started the struggle for freedom. She was responsible for secretly disseminating information and literature against the Nazis. She was often posting flyers and political pamphlets on the walls of residential buildings urging citizens to stand up against the occupation.

In 1943 she was arrested with her husband and other militants and sentenced to execution. Melinee, unlike her husband was able to flee from the prison later on and continued the struggle against Nazi Germany with her other companions until their victory.

She died in Paris in 1989.

The French poet, Paul Eluard was very impressed by the dedication of these people considered as the “strangers” coming from another country but ready to sacrifice their life for their adopted land, France. He wrote the following poem in their memory:

Si j’ai le droit de dire,
en français aujourd’hui,
Ma peine et mon espoir,
ma colère et ma joie
Si rien ne s’est voilé,
De notre rêve immense
et de notre sagesse

C’est que ces étrangers,
comme on les nomme encore,
Croyaient à la justice,
ici-bas, et concrète,
Ils avaient dans leur sang
le sang de leurs semblables
ces étrangers savaient
quelle était leur patrie


Armenian Women Encyclopedia I, Amaras, 2011

Hayganush Mark (1883-1966)


feminist Writer, Editor, Journalist

She was born in Constantinople in 1883 and attended the Yesayan school. She worked as a teacher. In 1907 she married the publisher Vahan Toshigian and was in charge of editing the women’s page in the her husband’s periodical, Arshaluys. She edited a women’s periodical, Dzaghig, from 1905-1907  and founded her own feminist periodical, Hay Gin (Armenian women)  in 1919. In her articles she often raised the women’s rights issues in Constantinople and the Armenian community and cooperated with other female writers to raise awareness on the situation of women living in rural areas.

“Hayganoush Mark was a prominent Armenian feminist journalist who managed to uninterruptedly continue a woman’s journal, Hay Gin, from 1919 to 1933 in Bolis/Istanbul” –Lerna Ekmecioglu

She also published later in her life in 1954, an autobiographical book on her work and a reprint of some of the most important articles in Hay Gin.

Arzu Khatun (12th-13th century)


Embroidery and weaving

Arzu Khatun was the wife of Vakhtank, prince of upper khachen. With her husband, she participated in founding different churches and monasteries and was close to  the Armenian legist ,  Mkhitar Gosh  who later dedicate to the the couple the first copy of his book of laws.

Arzu Khatun was known for her expertise and skill in weaving and lace making. She offered her handmade finely decorated curtains to different churches like Dadivank and Haghbat.

After the death of her husband in 1214 she built a magnificent monument-church  inside the monastery of Dadivank called Surp Katoghike which still stands today.

Kirakos Gandzaketsi a 13th century Armenian historian from Artsakh, praised Arzu-Khatun for her wonderful talent in embroidery and lace making:

“ It was a marvel to those who beheld it…dyed with diverse colors and illustrated with images very precisely executed as if they had been carved, depicting the Savior’s incarnation and [lives] of other saints… Those who saw it would praise God for giving women the wisdom to produce tapestries and the genius of embroidery”

Source: R. Hovannisian, The Armenian People, 1997

Armenian Women Encyclopedia, Amaras, 2011

Photo: Armenian Embroidery

Srpuhi Mayrabed Kalfayan – Սրբուհի Մայրապետ Գալֆաեան (1822-1889)


Nun and philanthropist

Born in Kartal, Constantinople, Kalfayan was a famous Armenian nun and philanthropist. She was 12 when she lost her father and vowed to become a nun. She ultimately succeeded in becoming a one in 1840. She founded the Order of Kalfayan and a professional school teaching girls skill, handicrafts and needlework. The school opened in 1850 and still stands today. In 1865, she promised to gather all the girls orphaned following the cholera epidemic and on January 1st, 1866 she opened an orphanage for girls in Hasköy in Constantinople, relying solely on herself and her financial resources. At first the orphanage consisted of 17 young girls and eventually she worked hard in developing it further. She died on July 4th, 1889 in Constantinople.

For an Armenian article on her life and work, read here.

You can also visit the school she founded and still existing, in Istanbul, Turkish info here.


Zabel Asadour – Զաբել Ասատուր (1863-1934) – Sybil


Feminist activist, poet, writer, educator and philanthropist

Zabel Khanjian, later Zabel Asadour, was born on July 23, 1863 in Scutari, a suburb of Constantinople, and educated in local French and Armenian schools. In 1879 when she was 16 years old, she joined with eight school friends to form the National Armenian Women’s Union which helped to establish girls’ schools and orphanages in the Armenian provinces. She became a well-known teacher and proponent of education, publishing with her husband, Hrand Asadour, a series of highly acclaimed Armenian language and literature textbooks. She also wrote journalism, fiction, and poetry under various pen-names including “Sybil,” “Anahit,” and “Miss Alice.” Her publications included novels such as True Feminism and A Girl’s Heart; a short story collection, Women’s Souls; and a volume of poetry, Reflections. The composition dates of her plays are uncertain. She died on June 19, 1934. Four years later, Hairenik Press in Boston published the Armenian version of her play The Bride, a lively comedy about a bride from the country who moves into her husband’s comfortable home in the big city but refuses to accept the traditional posture of submission to her mother-in-law’s authority.


“Her prose concentrated on love, marriage and the difficulties women faced while entering the public sphere”,- Victoria Rowe

“…the literary career and social activities of Sibyl  combined writing with activism aimed at improving the schooling of Armenian women”,- V.Rowe

You can read the english translation of her play, The Bride  here.


Sahakdukht (8th century)


Musician, Healer, Music Therapist

Famous musician, Sahakdukht was the sister of the great writer Stepanos Syunetsi. Her brother was known for his translations of classical Greek Literature to Armenian. He was tragically assassinated and after his death, Sahakdukht fell into a deep grief and retired in a cave in the valley of Garni, district of Syunik. But she was not alone in her retreat, many people followed her and mainly those suffering from nervous diseases. Hidden behind a curtain, Sahakdukht played her lyre to heal people suffering from melancholia and nervousness.  It was the start of music therapy. She became so famous, that after her death, people continued visiting her grave for pilgrimage.

Source: Vahram Torkomian, Les armeniennes dans l’histoire de la medecine, 1986

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