Doria Shafik

Doria Shafik (Arabic: درية شفيق‎‎; 14 December 1908 – 20 September 1975) was an Egyptian feminist, poet and editor, and one of the principal leaders of the women's liberation movement in Egypt in the mid-1940s.[1] As a direct result of her efforts, Egyptian women were granted the right to vote by the Egyptian constitution.

Doria Shafiq
درية شفيق
Doria Shafik.jpg
Born14 December 1908
Died20 September 1975(1975-09-20) (aged 66)
Occupationauthor, feminist, revolutionary

Early lifeEdit

Shafik was born in Tanta, in the Nile Delta of Northern Egypt and studied in a French mission primary school in Tanta and a Tanta secondary school for girls in Tanta until 16 years then studied in Cairo to study last 2 years of secondary education called baccaloria . At the age of 18 she became the one of first Egyptian girls to earn the degree of baccaloria secondary school . She was awarded a scholarship by the Egyptian Ministry of Education to study at the Sorbonne University in Paris. She also studied for a PhD in philosophy at the Sorbonne.[2] She wrote two thesis, one refuting the merely utilitarian ends generally associated with Ancient Egyptian art, and the second, arguing about recognised women's equal rights. She was awarded her PhD (Doctorat d'Etat) with high qualifications (Mention très honorable). In 1935 and as a girl in Egypt, she entered a beauty pageant, which sparked controversy.[3]

While in Paris, Shafik married Nour Al Din Ragai, a law student who was also on scholarship and working on his PhD.

Upon her return from France to Egypt in 1940, Shafik hoped to contribute to the education of her country's youth, but the dean of the Faculty of Literature of Cairo University denied her a teaching position on the pretext that she was "too modern."[2]

In 1945, Princess Chevicar, the first wife of Egypt's then former King Fuad I, offered Shafik the position of editor-in-chief of La Femme Nouvelle, a French cultural and literary magazine addressing the country's elite. Shafik accepted the position, and with Chevicar's death in 1947, took complete responsibility for the magazine, including its financing. Under her direction La Femme Nouvelle gained regional status. Also in 1945, Shafik decided to publish an Arabic magazine, Bint Al Nil (Daughter of The Nile), intended to educate Egyptian women and to help them to have the most effective role possible within their family and their society.[4][5] The first issue came out in November 1945 and was almost immediately sold out.

In 1948 Shafik created the Bint Al Nil Union, to help solve women's primary social problems and to ensure their inclusion in their country's policies.[6] The union also worked to eradicate illiteracy by setting up centres for that purpose throughout the country, set up an employment office and a cafeteria for working women.

Storming ParliamentEdit

In February 1951, she managed to secretly bring together 1500 women from Egypt's two leading feminist groupings (Bint Al-Nil and the Egyptian Feminist Union). She organized a march of people that interrupted parliament for four hours after they gathered there with a series of demands mainly related to women's socioeconomic rights. Mufidah Abdul Rahman was chosen to defend Shafik in court in regards to this.[7][3] When the case went to trial, many Bint al-Nil supporters attended the courtroom, and the judge adjourned the hearing indefinitely.[8]

However, in spite of receiving promises from the President of the Senate, women's rights experienced no improvements.[3]

Struggle against occupationEdit

In 1951, Doria Shafik decided to contribute to efforts towards ridding Egypt from British occupation by creating the first female military unit, which brought together 2000 women, prepared them for the front and to carry out essential nursing activities.

Bent El-Nil PartyEdit

After the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, Doria Shafik requested government recognition of Bent El-Nil as a political party, with Doria Shafik herself as its president, which the government accepted to grant.

First hunger strikeEdit

On 12 March 1954, Doria Shafik undertook an eight-day hunger strike at the press syndicate, in protest at the creation of a constitutional committee with no women on it.[9] She ended her strike upon receiving a written statement that President Naguib was committed to a constitution that respected the rights of women.

Trip around the worldEdit

As a result of the interest sparked by her hunger strike, Doria Shafik was invited to lecture in Asia, Europe and the United States about Egyptian women. She travelled to Italy, England, France, the United States, Japan, India, Ceylon and Pakistan.

Right to voteEdit

As a result of Doria Shafik's efforts, women were granted the right to vote under the constitution of 1956, with the proviso, however, that they must be literate, which was not a prerequisite for male voting.

Second hunger strikeEdit

In 1957 Shafik undertook a second hunger strike in the Indian embassy, in protest over President Gamal Abdel Nasser's dictatorial regime. As a result, she was put under house arrest by Nasser, her name was banned from the press and her magazines from circulation.[3]

Literary workEdit

In addition to her magazines, Shafik wrote a novel, L'Esclave Sultane,[10] several volumes of poetry published by Pierre Fanlac, her own memoirs which is translated into many languages.

Seclusion and deathEdit

Following her house arrest Doria Shafik led a solitary life, even when her movement was no longer restricted. She spent her last years reading, writing and mainly in the company of her daughter and grandchildren. She came to her death after falling from her balcony in 1975.[5] The New York Times regretted not printing her obituary and finally printed one in 2018.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Shafik married Nureldin Ragai in Paris in 1937. He would go on to become a prominent lawyer in Egypt and to support all of her efforts. They were together for 31 years (till 1968 when they divorced) and had a daughter Jehane. Doria Shafik was living a solitary life and was visited by her daughter and her grandchildren


On December 14, 2016, Google dedicated a Doodle to the writer for the 108th anniversary of her birth. The Doodle reached all the countries of the Arab World.[11] In 2018, the New York Times published a belated obituary for her.[3]


  1. ^ Judith E. Tucker (2008). "Shafiq, Durriya (1908-1975)". In Bonnie G. Smith (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Volume 4: Seton-Zia. Oxford University Press. pp. 27–8. ISBN 978-0-19-514890-9.
  2. ^ a b Cynthia Nelson (Fall 1986). "The Voices of Doria Shafik: Feminist Consciousness in Egypt, 1940-1960". Feminist Issues. 6 (2): 15–31. doi:10.1007/BF02685640.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Overlooked No More: Doria Shafik, Who Led Egypt's Women's Liberation Movement (Published 2018)". The New York Times. 2018-08-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  4. ^ "Bint al-Nil Journal". Retrieved 4 May 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b Kheir, Mohammed (8 March 2012). "Durriya Shafiq: Rebellious Daughter of the Nile". Al-Akhbar. Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Nadje S. Al Ali. "Women's Movements in the Middle East: Case Studies of Egypt and Turkey" (Report). SOAS. Retrieved 21 September 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Cynthia Nelson (1996). Doria Shafik Egyptian Feminist : A Woman apart. American Univ in Cairo Press. pp. 169–176–. ISBN 978-977-424-413-1.
  8. ^ Anne Commire; Deborah Klezmer (2002). Women in World History: Schu-Sui. Yorkin Publications. ISBN 978-0-7876-4073-6.
  9. ^ Tadros, Mariz (March 1999). "Unity in Diversity". Al-Ahram. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Doria Shafik (1952). L'esclave Sultane. Nouvelles Editions Latines. GGKEY:8KTWB8112X2.
  11. ^ "Doria Shafik's 108th Birthday". 14 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  • Asunción Oliva Portoles, Recuperación de una voz olvidada, Madrid: Huerga y Fierro editores, 2010. ISBN 9788483748237
  • Cynthia Nelson, Doria Shafik, Egyptian Feminist: A woman Apart, Gainesville: University Press of Florida (EE.UU.), 1996. ISBN 9780813014555

External linksEdit