Armenian Women

in search of Herstory

Archive for the category “Women’s International Day”

Shushanik Kurghinian – Շուշանիկ Կուրղինյան (1876–1927)


Armenia’s pioneer socialist feminist poet, Kurghinian was born in Gyumri, in 1876. She became politically active at seventeen and after graduating from the Progymnasium, left for Russia in order to continue her education. Instead, she immersed herself into the revolutionary underground in Rostov and partook in various proletarian actions. Her first book The Ringing of Dawn was published in 1907, which contained rare socialist feminist poetry and was highly criticized among the leading literary groups in Armenia. Kurghinian returned to her homeland in 1921 and continued her struggle for the betterment of social conditions for the unprivileged. She died in 1927.


I pity you, dull-witted women,
for chasing after rouge and beauty aids,
wasting away your time without a goal,
with faces adorned for lewd sale.

For using any possible means to
always please and gratify men,
day and night obsessing only
how to set traps of jealousy.

For robbing those who love you
of their last penny earned in pain,
at times of distress, callous and low
like owls you hoot, playing the victim.

For having a subtle instinct of marketing,
selling yourselves for the highest price,
bickering endlessly over style, appearance,
a circus show of fashion rivalry.

I pity you, vain captives, whose
thoughts are lost in folds of velvet
for having minds that are utterly vacant,
for having hearts that are tainted with deceit.

S. Kurghinian, 1907
translated by Shushan Avagyan

Sources: I want to live: Poems of Shushanik Kurghinian, translated by S. Avagyan, AIWA, 2005


Queen Zabel – Զաբել թագուհի (1219-1252)


Daughter of King Levon of Cilicia, Zabel was proclaimed the successor to the throne and Queen of Cilicia. She was just a young child when her father died. She first married the Duke of Antioch but he was arrested and executed for not adopting the Armenian Church and fleeing the country with her. Then she was married off to her guardian’s son, Hetum against her will. As this was imposed on her, she refused for years to have any contact with her new husband. Years later, Hetum’s dedication, courage and good will made her change her mind and she agreed to rule the country by his side.

A responsible queen and a dedicated mother, Zabel was very involved in leading the country and played an important role in the development of education and literature. She was the protector of the fine arts and a devoted supporter of theater. At the age of 25 she sponsored the building of a hospital where she used to volunteer in person.

Zabel successfully governed the country together with her husband Hetum and the coins minted during that period bear the effigies of both.

Sources: Vahan Kurkjian, A History of Armenia, 1958

Armenians of Cilicia

painting: Vardges Surenyants, Queen Zabel’s return to the throne, 1909

Arshakuhi Teodik – Արշակուհի Թեոդիկ (1875-1922)


Public figure, pedagogue and translator, Arshakuhi Teodik (born Chezvechian) was very active in the social and literary life of Constantinople’s Armenian community where she was born. She studied in London and Paris and contributed to different collective works, among them Lusinian’s French-Armenian illustrated Dictionary. Together with her husband, she was known for funding and publishing the Armenian Almanac.

Her surroundings described her as a very dedicated woman and a true social activist; from creating the league of women in Constantinople to helping the victims of the massacres of 1909, and organizing schools and orphanages, she never spared a moment of her life to engage in the social and political activism of her time.

With very scarce resources, she found a way to visit Armenian political prisoners after the massacres in Adana and gather important testimonies and evidences of torture she witnessed there in a documentary book entitled “A month in Cilicia”(1910).

Sources: Anahit Harutyunyan, Yereveli Tiknants Tar, 2005

Photo: Wikipedia

Diana Abgar – Դիանա Աբգար (1859-1937)

diana abgar

Diana Abgar was born in Rangoon, Burma of Armenian parents from Persia (Iran) and grew up in India. Her real name is Anahit Aghabek (Aghabekyan). In 1889 she married a Hong Kong merchant Mickael Abgar and moved to Japan where she started her literature career. After the death of her husband in 1906, she went to Yokohama with her children. In 1919 she was appointed consul general of the Republic of Armenia in Japan and became the first female ambassador in the east to occupy a diplomatic position. Abgar wrote books, editorials and appeals for her country in several languages and during the Armenian genocide, she helped a number of Armenian refugees, who through Siberia and Japan were moving to the USA. In Vladivostok about 500 Armenians were gathered, most of them moved to the USA with Diana Abgar’s help.


Diana Der-Hovanessian, The Other Voice, 2005


On the occasion of the International Day of Women, the Women’s Resource Center is launching this blog as part of the one month campaign in Armenia. The initiative is entitled “30 Women, 30 Days” and a team of dedicated women will post and share information on the forgotten faces of Armenian women in history.  Each day, starting on march 8th, we will post the photo and a short info on an outstanding woman who played an important role in the Armenian society, culture, politics, science and all other fields.

Join us in celebrating the power of women in Armenia and around the world!

Share, discuss, talk, voice, shout,  post, empower!

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