Although by law, political power could not pass through the Queen’s body (only male heirs could succeed to the throne in France), there was great political interest in the body of Louis XVI’s Queen, Marie Antoinette, a Habsburg princess whose marriage into the Bourbon household solidified a diplomatic alliance between France and Austria. From nearly the moment she arrived at Versailles in 1770... Read More »
Fadhma Amrouche was the illegitimate daughter of an impoverished, illiterate Berber peasant woman. Born a Muslim, she was converted to Christianity by Catholic missionaries, produced one of the first autobiographies ever written by an Algerian woman, became a naturalized French citizen, and raised two children who became well-known French literati—Taos Marie-Louise Amrouche, a poet and... Read More »
In Morocco, after 1912, the colonial regime eschewed, for the most part, introducing overt changes into Islamic personal status law. Indeed the patriarchy of the reigning dynasty, the ’Alawis, and of the leaders of the great tribes, was reinforced, since France wanted Morocco to theoretically remain “traditional,” untouched by modernity. Nevertheless France’s divide-and-conquer strategy... Read More »
By the eve of the revolution, Algerian demands for even limited political and civil rights had been repeatedly rebuffed by the French colonial regime and the nearly one million European settlers in the country. The only possible solution was armed conflict, which broke out on All Saints Day, November 1954. Thus began one of Africa’s cruelest anticolonial wars—an immense human tragedy that... Read More »
Tewhida Ben Sheikh [1909- ] was the first North African Muslim woman to earn a medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine in Paris, in 1936, while Tunisia was still under colonial rule. After she was awarded her medical diploma in France, Madame Ben Sheikh returned to Tunis, where she opened a women’s reproductive health clinic, often providing free medical services for poor women. She was... Read More »
In 1956 one of the most revolutionary family law codes in the Arab or Islamic world was proclaimed in the newly independent Tunisian state which, paradoxically, had not suffered a political revolution in the way that colonial Algeria would. What historical factors explain why Tunisian women won comparatively more legal and social rights than women in Algeria or Morocco?
While the... Read More »
In North Africa, Muslim and Jewish women’s quotidian religiosity was expressed in popular observances and festivals preserved chiefly, but not exclusively, in oral traditions. The most visible embodiment of these beliefs and practices were saints’ shrine where women (and men) honored especially pious individuals, who could be either male or female, living or dead. Lalla Zaynab (1850?-1904) was... Read More »