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The Ladies' Secret Society: History of the Courageous Women of Iran

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The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an unmitigated disaster for the women of Iran. That fact is well known. What is less well-known and what Manda Zand Ervin brings to light in her remarkable book, is the long history of struggle against clerical domination in which the women of Iran have been engaged for centuries. Rooted in the proud history of ancient Persia where once The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an unmitigated disaster for the women of Iran. That fact is well known. What is less well-known and what Manda Zand Ervin brings to light in her remarkable book, is the long history of struggle against clerical domination in which the women of Iran have been engaged for centuries. Rooted in the proud history of ancient Persia where once Mother-Gods were worshipped, the Ladies’ Secret Society, founded in the early decades of the 20th Century, was at once the inheritor of this proud history and the progenitor of the women of today who are enduring 25-year prison sentences for the defiant, yet innocent, act of removing their hijabs in public. Ervin tells the stories and records the accomplishments of generations of individual women activists who have risked everything to educate their daughters even when held in thrall to the harem system of the Qajar era. These women refused to be victims. They fought like lionesses for every scrap of freedom gained from the time of the Arab conquest to the era of the Shah, only to see all their hard-won rights destroyed with the coming of Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. Yet, despite the extreme cruelty of the clergy and the imminent danger they face, the women of Iran are undeterred. Ervin pays loving tribute to them all as she relates the stories of their remarkable achievements in the face of overwhelming oppression. Thanks to Manda Zand Ervin and her extraordinary book, we know their names and we will not forget their courageous lives.


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The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an unmitigated disaster for the women of Iran. That fact is well known. What is less well-known and what Manda Zand Ervin brings to light in her remarkable book, is the long history of struggle against clerical domination in which the women of Iran have been engaged for centuries. Rooted in the proud history of ancient Persia where once The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an unmitigated disaster for the women of Iran. That fact is well known. What is less well-known and what Manda Zand Ervin brings to light in her remarkable book, is the long history of struggle against clerical domination in which the women of Iran have been engaged for centuries. Rooted in the proud history of ancient Persia where once Mother-Gods were worshipped, the Ladies’ Secret Society, founded in the early decades of the 20th Century, was at once the inheritor of this proud history and the progenitor of the women of today who are enduring 25-year prison sentences for the defiant, yet innocent, act of removing their hijabs in public. Ervin tells the stories and records the accomplishments of generations of individual women activists who have risked everything to educate their daughters even when held in thrall to the harem system of the Qajar era. These women refused to be victims. They fought like lionesses for every scrap of freedom gained from the time of the Arab conquest to the era of the Shah, only to see all their hard-won rights destroyed with the coming of Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. Yet, despite the extreme cruelty of the clergy and the imminent danger they face, the women of Iran are undeterred. Ervin pays loving tribute to them all as she relates the stories of their remarkable achievements in the face of overwhelming oppression. Thanks to Manda Zand Ervin and her extraordinary book, we know their names and we will not forget their courageous lives.

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