Many women have been born into the world when the concept of the equality of opportunities for men and women are part of the common structure of society. Many women have lived through the changes and developments while many others have fought until their very last breath to see this dream come true. One of this women that to me is the FIRST woman in the world to publicly speak about the emancipation of women was Táhirih.
Born in Qazvin, a city of Iran around 1817-1820 (her exact date of birth is unknown due to the fact that her birth certificate, along with other of her possessions were burnt after she was killed), Táhirih was the daughter of one of the most prominent Mullahs of the region and was well educated in Islam and the Quran. Her father often lamented the fact that she was a woman because of her brightness and enlightenment - he thought if she had been a boy that she would have been his successor.
A painting of Ṭáhirih by Ivan Lloyd. This image was taken from http://bahaikipedia.org/Tahirih[/caption]
She believed in the teachings of Siyyid Kázim thus accepting the truth that the coming of the Promised One was close. After his death, Táhirih would tell others about the coming of the promised Qa'im through a curtain (back then women were not allowed to appear in public without a veil). A few years after this, the Bab was made Manifest. The first eighteen people to believe in Him are known as the "Letters of the Living" and Táhirih was the only woman amongst them. She recognized the truth of the Bab through a dream and immediately began to teach His Cause which was the reason for many to embrace the Bab's Faith. She was already known as one of the most learned women of the time and this made the clerics nervous. Táhirih -as well as many other believers- was arrested, insulted by the crowds and disgraced by her family.
She traveled the region delivering the Message to those who would hear and encouraging the friends to do so as well. Wherever she would go, she would fiercely defend the truth of her newly found Faith and she gained the respect and admiration of people in all social classes. After being held as a prisoner upon returning to her home, she left to Tehran. It was around that time that something amazing occurred. The conference of Badasht where Babis got together to discuss matters concerning their new Faith happened. Táhirih, Quddus and Baha'u'llah were amongst those who attended and it was there where Táhirih, that courageous poet and hero rose and unveiled exclaimed: "The Trumpet is sounding! The great Trump is blown! The universal Advent is now proclaimed!"(Memorials of the Faithful, Pages 191-204: gr27). The response from those present was as can be expected with a mix of confusion, anger and surprise but Baha'u'llah calmly managed to restore order and peace amongst them as they read Passages from the holy Writings that spoke of this day.
She was the essence of purity and courage!!
Even the new Shah of Iran was taken by Táhirih and her eloquence. He had ordered for them to leave her alone and let her be. However, this is not what happened.
After the Bab died, some years later Táhirih sensed that the time for her to finally be in the presence of her Beloved had arrived. She dressed in a very elegant white dress, bathed and put rose water perfume on as if she were going to wed. She farewell to everyone and soon a group of guards took her to a garden -without the Shah's knowledge. Some time before she was strangled with her scarf she, with true conviction proclaimed: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women!". And this is exactly what happened.
Not only an outstanding woman but a wonderful poet. You can read one of her poems here.
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith referred to her as the first woman suffrage martyr (God Passes By, p. 75).