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454 The QIRIAZI Sisters, Sevasti (1870–1949) and Parashqevi (1880–1970) Teachers; pioneers of women’s education and founders (1909) of the first Albanian women’s association, Yll’i mëngjezit (Morning Star). Sevasti (Dako) Qiriazi was born in February 1870 in Manastir (Monastir in English , a city in southern Albania), one of the ten children of Dhimiter Qiriazi and his wife Maria. Sevasti finished Greek elementary school and later, American high school in Manastir, finally going on to study at the American College of Istanbul in 1888. After graduating with excellent good results in June 1891, she returned to Albania. To combat the high rate of illiteracy among Albanian women (around ninety percent), she opened the first Albanian school for girls in Korçë (October 1891) with the support of her brother Gjerasim Qiriazi (1861–1894), an intellectual and advocate of Albanian education. As a result of her efforts, the number of girls enrolled in the school increased from 27 (in the school year 1891–1892) to eighty (1909–1910), of which twenty lived in dormitories. This development marked a change of mentality—a challenge to the stigma surrounding the education of young women. The structure of the school was much the same as that of most Western European schools: five years of elementary-level, followed by four years of secondary-level classes. In addition to educating young girls, another important function of Sevasti’s school was the training of teachers, a newly emerging trend. Sevasti was a pioneer of campaigns against women’s illiteracy in Albania. In 1909, she participated in the Congress of Elbasan, at which a decision was taken to open the first high school in Albania (the school was opened on 1 December 1909). She was also a member of the commission for curriculum development and the evaluation of textbooks founded by the association Përparimi (Progress); she published the school textbooks Gramatikën elementare për shkollat fillore (Elementary grammar, Manastir 1912) and Shkrojtoren e gjuhës shqipe (Written Albanian), and worked on a series of ancient, medieval and modern histories. Parashqevi Qiriazi, Sevasti’s younger sister by ten years, was born on 2 June 1880 in Manastir, the youngest child of the Qiriazi family. She graduated from Uimins Kol- 455 lixh in Istanbul in 1904, after which she returned to Albania and began working as a teacher in the Albanian school for girls founded by her sister Sevasti and her brother Gjerasim Qiriazi in Korçë. In 1909, she published Abetare për shkollat e para (A beginners’ textbook for the teaching of literacy in elementary schools) in Manastir, thus becoming the first Albanian woman to write textbooks. In her writings she advocated democratic ideas such as free mandatory elementary schools in rural areas. In 1908, she was a delegate to the Congress of Manastir, where a standardized Albanian alphabet was established. The beginning of the organized Albanian women’s movement dates from 29 January 1909 when, on the initiative of the Qiriazi sisters, the first Albanian women’s association, Yll’i mëngjezit (Morning Star), was created in the city of Korçë (in southeast Albania). The main goal of Yll’i mëngjezit was to engage and mobilize the women and girls of the city through various cultural, educational and professional activities, with a view to their emancipation and self-development. Women’s education was a priority of the association. According to the statutes, the association had a director, a bookkeeper and a secretary. The leading body was elected every four years in a secret voting process. The first head of Yll’i mëngjezit was Parashqevi Qiriazi. Through the association, teachers from the 1891 school for girls gave special classes for women in written Albanian. The association organized conferences on behalf of the national movement and classes for women in hygiene, child-rearing, physical appearance and moral education. It also put on several plays for the education and entertainment of its members, who were from all social classes and religious groups. In 1911, as a result of persistent pressure from the Turkish authorities, Yll’i mëngjezit ceased its activities. After the formation of the Albanian government in December 1912 (the year Albania gained its independence), the former leaders of Yll’i mëngjezit made an official appeal to the government to reopen their association. Permission was granted and the association was reopened in Korçë on 27 February 1913. The one hundred women and girls from Korçë who were present elected Sevasti Qiriazi...


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