Zahra Khanom Tadj es-Saltaneh
Taj Saltaneh or Tāj al-Salṭanah (1883 – 25 January 1936; Persian: تاجالسلطنه), was a Persian princess. Memoirist of the Qajar Dynasty, a daughter of Naser al-Din Shah, the King of Persia from 1843 to May 1896 by his wife Turan es-Saltaneh. She was the love interest of the Persian poet Aref Qazvini, who wrote his poem Ey Taj for her.
Taj Saltaneh was a trailblazer for women's rights in Iran and a feminist. She was a prominent founding member of Iran's underground women's rights group Anjoman Horriyyat Nsevan or Women's Freedom Association (the Society of Women's Freedom), working for equal rights for women circa 1910. She secretly organized and attended underground women's rights meetings telling her children and grandchildren that she was attending religious sessions. She once led a women's rights march to parliament and was an avid supporter of Iran's constitution revolution.
She was a writer, a painter, an intellectual, and an activist who hosted literary salons at her house once a week. She was fluent in Arabic and French and played the violin. She was the first woman in court to take off the hijab and wear western clothes. The first to write a memoir and a vocal critic of the monarchy- her father Naser el-Din Shah and brother Mozafar el-Din Shah's rule. She blamed many of Iran's problems then, including poverty, lack of education for masses and women's rights, on incompetent monarchs. Her voice was a lone female voice advocating for change and democracy.
Her memoirs were published under the title of Crowning Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity 1884 – 1914 (1996), edited with a preface by Abbas Amanat and translated by Anna Vanzan and Amin Neshati. They were well received, the Times Literary Supplement describing them thus: "In somewhat unusual and cumbersome style, Taj's memoirs, written in 1914, cover a thirty-year span of a rapidly changing era [...] A curious blend of the reconstructive and reflective, Taj al Saltaneh's memoirs bring home the intense conflicts of a life straddling the harem and modernism." (March 4, 1994)
Her hand-written memoir is in the archives of Iran's National Library.
She was married to Sardar Hassan Shojah Saltaneh, an aristocrat and the son of the defense minister Shojah al-Saltaneh. They had four children. Taj divorced her husband, breaking a taboo and becoming one of the first women in the royal family to get a divorce. In her later years, she dedicated her life to writing, reading and raising her beloved granddaughter Taj Iran, with whom she had a special bond and heavily influenced her upbringing. She lived with her daughter Touran Douleh until she died.
She is buried in the Zahir od-Dowleh Cemetery in Tajrish. Her life and her writing and her role as a feminist is a subject of Middle Eastern studies in universities from Tehran University to Harvard. In 2015 Harvard acquired from her descendants their family photos, writings, anecdotes and stories about Taj Saltaneh's life for its archives.
- Etehadieh, Mansureh (1992). Tadj es-Saltaneh. Tehran: Nashr-e Tarikh-e Iran.
- Afsaneh Najmabadi. Tāj-al-Salṭana. Encyclopædia Iranica
- Shireen Mahdavi. Taj al-Saltaneh, an Emancipated Qajar Princess. Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 188-193
- Crowning Anguish, Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity
- A brief history of women's movements in Iran 1850 - 2000 payvand
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