Women’s participation in public affairs was an indicator of social change in the Arab and Ottoman worlds. By the end of the 19th century only in Egypt were there three magazines edited by and for women in circulation.
A brief look at the works of women fiction writers clearly demonstrates that not only were they concerned with self-expression but also issues concerning the place of women in society in the local context of each country. They also concerned themselves with the broader issues of social stratification, cultural dialogue and the relationship between “East” and “West”, and the liberation of women. These literary pioneers saw themselves and their literary characters as active agents in a period of reform and change and also played a decisive role in the revival of classical Arabic prose and poetry. These authors include novelists and poets such as Zaynab Fawwaz, Labiba Hashem, Afifa Karam and Warda al-Yaziji of Lebanon, Aisha Taymur of Egypt, Maryana Marrash, Mary ‘Ajami and Nazik Bayham of Syria, and many others. In 1892 the first women’s magazine, Al-Fatah
appeared in Alexandria, published by the Syrian journalist Hind Nawfal.