Echoes of Women Patriots


Maryam Hejazi

OIAC Board Member

The recent report by Reuters on February 4th of this year, entitled, “Iranian Women’s Anti-hijab Protest Gains Momentum Despite Dozens of Arrests,” elicits comparisons of patriot women in another time.

While the movement is commendable and should continue to rise in popularity, this is not the first or the most notable instance that women patriots have shown strong defiance against atrocities of their oppressors. Early America’s women patriots are perfect examples of how women can help alter the political spectrum for good. Women of Iran likewise harbor a history rich from resistance against oppression, which guides their pro-democracy movement today.


Esther De Berdt Reed was a Revolutionary patriot. Although she was born in London in 1746, her support and heroic efforts were for her adopted America. She met and married Joseph Reed of New Jersey, and by 1774, had become a zealous American patriot.

In a letter written to her brother, she wrote of her allegiance to her newly adopted country:

“The people of New England…are prepared for the worst event, and they have such ideas of their injured liberty, and so much enthusiasm in the cause, that I do not think that any power on earth could take it from them but with their lives… You see every person willing to sacrifice his private interest in this glorious contest.”

Her public efforts, while rearing six children, began by founding an organization called The Ladies Association in Pennsylvania to provide aid for George Washington‘s troops during the American Revolutionary war. Esther and the ladies of Philadelphia had raised $300,000, by going door to door. Her friend and daughter of Benjamin Franklin, Sarah Franklin Bache, continued her work.

Her bravery and determined activism is remarkable given that it had only been a decade since Esther had come to America, leaving behind her friends and family.

Women of Iran

“Equality is a living, shining and rebellious ideal,” women of Iran have also long strived for.  Iranian women had a significant role in early1900’s Constitutional Revolution. In 1910, for example, they published their first Women’s Journal in Iran.  In the years before and for 40 years since the 1979 anti-monarch revolution, women have fought fiercely against religious tyranny. From Mehrnoush Ebrahimi, Ashraf Rajavi, to Neda Agha Soltan (who was shot dead by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the 2009 uprising), tens of thousands of Iranian women bravely gave their lives in the struggle against injustice.

In the nationwide pro-democracy protests that gipped streets of Iran last December and this January, women again demonstrated valiant leadership and extraordinary heroism.

The correlation between Esther Reed and political activists in Iran of today is particularly noteworthy because it demonstrates that the modern liberation movement and women influence in it are indispensable to the advancement of human society.

Taken in the context of the greater known threats to mankind and fundamentalist Islam, role and freedom for women looms large. As Iranian people’s movement towards a secular and representative republic blossoms, like in the American Revolution, this type of display of patriotism and duty will certainly impact future generations of women for good.

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