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The Education of Women and The Vices of Men

Two Qajar Tracts

translated from the Persian and with an introduction by Hasan Javadi and Willem Floor

Publication Year: 2010

At the close of the nineteenth century, modern ideas of democracy and equality were slowly beginning to take hold in Iran. Exposed to European ideas about law, equality, and education, upper- and middle-class men and women increasingly questioned traditional ideas about the role of women and their place in society. In apparent response to this emerging independence of women, an anonymous author penned The Education of Women, a small booklet published in 1889. This guide, aimed at husbands as much as at wives, instructed women on how to behave toward their husbands, counseling them on proper dress, intimacy, and subservience. One woman, Bibi Khanom Astarabadi, took up the author’s challenge and wrote a refutation of the guide’s arguments. An outspoken mother of seven, Astarabadi established the first school for girls in Tehran and often advocated for the rights of women. In The Vices of Men, she details the flaws of men, offering a scathing diatribe on the nature of men’s behavior toward women. Astarabadi mixes the traditional florid style of the time with street Persian, slang words, and bawdy language. This new edition, the first to be translated into English, faithfully preserves the style and irreverent tone of the essays. The two texts, together with an introduction and afterword situating both within the customs, language, and social life of Iran, offer a rare candid dialogue.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xxv

In 1304/1886–87, a small booklet was published in Tehran by an anonymous author. It was entitled Ta’dib al-Nesvan, or The Education of Women, and it immediately caused a furor in that city.1 The booklet made such an impact...

Part One: The Education of Women

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pp. 1-54

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pp. 3-4

[After praise of God and the Prophet, the author states:] A friend of mine who was an intimate confidant and a solace to my woes said: “When I was young and the down on my face was just sprouting forth...

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Preface: Concerning Little Girls Who Have Been Spoilt by Their Parents and Will Not Make It in Any Society

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pp. 5-10

The reason [girls are spoiled] is that from the beginning of life until puberty they eat nothing but delicious dishes, drink cold beverages, and hear nothing but “Little Lady.” Every nurse says, “My little lady, the moon cannot compare...

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1. Of Women’s Character and Conduct

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pp. 11-14

This much is certain: that love should be mutual, and this cannot be compared with any other matter. A man who is in love with a woman, if he witnesses a lack of it, obviously he will forsake it if he has to complain without ceasing...

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2. Control Your Tongue

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pp. 15-17

Guarding your tongue is important because the wound of the tongue is worse than the wound of the spear...

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3. Do Not Complain

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pp. 18-20

A wife should never complain about her husband, even if she has a hundred reasons to do so. Complaints will give rise to complaints. The root cause of complaints is coldness, and, however close the relationship...

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4. No Sulking

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pp. 21-22

A wife should never sulk, however much hardship she has to endure; she has to see the positive side and be patient. I have heard it said that an old woman, when she was on the verge of death, may God bless her, expressed...

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5. Of Bearing and Behavior in Society

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pp. 23-27

A wife should not walk fast, should hold her head high and not bend her back, and her gait should be graceful. She should walk slowly in such a way that her entire movement is nice and...

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6. How to Eat

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pp. 28-30

A wife should sit at the tablecloth on her two knees, while smiling and not chattering. She should partake of each dish, whether bad or good, with a smiling face and in small morsels. She should eat with her fingertips...

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7. Of Bodily Cleanliness and the Use of Certain Perfumes

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pp. 31-33

Nothing is more unattractive in a woman than to make use of animal fat for her head, face, and hands. There is no point in smelling like a greasy cook. She should not touch grease, even when it is a cosmetic and made with one thousand...

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8. Concerning How to Dress

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pp. 34-40

A woman should always wear clean clothes, and she should not show herself to her husband in dirty, greasy, and old clothes. She should dress like a peacock showing off. She should change her attire once a day...

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9. Of Bed and Sleeping Manners

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pp. 41-50

This is the whole point that I have been trying to make, and this chapter is the most important one. When night falls and it is time to sleep, this most important chapter opens. All the preparations, the hustle...

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10. Of Waking and Rising Manners

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pp. 51-54

When the wife gets up in the morning, after saying her prayers, she should not prolong reading the Koran and saying prayers, but without delay she should comb her hair, apply eye shadow, sprinkle her hair and face...

Part Two: The Vices of Men

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pp. 55-126

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pp. 57-59

First, from the beginning I praise God, who created women from the left rib of man. In the beginning of the year 1312 hijri [1894–95], which coincides with the forty-eighth anniversary of the auspicious reign...

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Advice to Women with the Help of God

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pp. 61-82

“My greetings to accomplished ladies and young maidens so that they be aware and accept advice, so that salvation will be yours in this world and the world to come.” God Almighty has created you women for men so that you will be as a harvest...

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The Vices of Men

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pp. 83-115

In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful. This is the book called The Vices of Men. We praise God, whose least endowment is the greatest gift to the inhabitants of the earth, and we are thankful to the Provider...

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An Episode of My Life

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pp. 117-126

The story of this humble author that I promised in the beginning of the book is the following. In the days of youth and the time of happiness, one of the immigrants from Qarabagh82 fell passionately in love...

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Part Three: Women in Persian Satire: Hasan Javadi

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pp. 127-164

The man-woman relationship has always been one of conflict. Except in early matriarchal societies, man has generally dominated woman, but at the same time he has always been in need of her. Man has enjoyed the advantages...


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pp. 167-183


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pp. 185-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651512
E-ISBN-10: 0815651511
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632405
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632401

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 9 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Husbands -- Iran -- Conduct of life.
  • Wives -- Iran -- Conduct of life.
  • Sex customs -- Iran.
  • Women -- Sexual behavior -- Iran.
  • Women -- Iran -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Iran -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
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