Primary Source

"Girls' Education is the Basis of Civilization and Moral Refinement" 1907 [Magazine Article]


At the turn of the 20th century, Tehran published magazines intended to reshape social practices, to "civilize" and "modernize" the nation. Many magazines addressed the education of girls, contending that uneducated mothers resulted in uneducated children and hence a nation that could not advance.

These calls for reform of girls' education came at a time when many countries in the Middle East began to demand independence from colonial powers. They debated the merits of "modernity" (which some understood as "western") and "tradition" (understood as "eastern"). For many nationalists and feminists, "modernity" meant greater education rights for women with the goal of strengthening the nation and its quest for independence from colonization and/or western imperialism.

As part of the nationalist efforts, an increasing number of girls began to be offered access to education. The curriculum for girls usually centered on learning home-making and parenting skills so that the girls could grow up to properly raise the next generation of citizens.


"Girls' Education is the Basis of Civilization and Moral Refinement," True Dawn (February 1907), in Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East by Akram Fouad Khater (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004), 89–90. Annotated by Heidi Morrison.

Primary Source Text

The best path to civilization is the education, training of girls. The first necessity of moral refinement for girls is to be educated, trained, and cultured. Every nation that wants to become civilized has to begin educating and training girls from an early age. Each nation, according to their own religious laws and practices, should provide it [education] for them with any means possible.

Indeed, these girls will become mothers themselves, and their children will socialize with one another and their habits and disposition will spread among each other. But if they have all been educated in a good manner and with moral refinement, then there can be established in that nation a higher civilization. In this manner, the nation will develop and complete its march of progress by becoming civilized.

On the other hand, if the girls [children] are trained and raised by an uneducated mother, then the bad moods, habits, and disposition will have a bad affect on the children. Along with the growth and mental maturity, an indecent manner will be formed and become a habit; and it will also spread among the children. Therefore, barbarism will develop among the people and they will never become a civilized nation. . .

How to Cite This Source

""Girls' Education is the Basis of Civilization and Moral Refinement" 1907 [Magazine Article]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #467, (accessed August 10, 2021).