Mary Ajami

(1888- 1965)

Syrian writer, poet, journalist and founder of the Damascus Women's Literary Club.

Born in Damascus in 1884, Ajami received an education at missionary schools before studying nursing at the American University of Beirut. She graduated in 1906, at the age of 18.

In 1910, she founded al-Arous (the Bride), the first journal in the Arab region calling for women's emancipation. It was published in Damascus and ran for eleven years. Ajamy served as its editor-in-chief and employed a small number of educated Syrian girls on its editorial board. Most of them wrote under pseudonyms for fear of reprisals.

The magazine's opening statement called out: “to those who believe that in the spirit of women is the strength to kill the germs of corruption, and that in her hand is the weapon to rend the gloom of oppression, and in her mouth the solace to lighten human misery.”

The magazine introduced Ajamy into the literary circles of Syria, and she began to attend intellectual salons to discuss politics, religion, poetry, and philosophy with male statesmen, at a time when most women were confined to their homes to raise children.

On May 6, 1916, Ajami's prospective husband was hanged for his anti-Ottoman views by the Jamal Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of Syria. This tragedy transformed Ajamy into a revolutionary spokeswoman for the anti-Ottoman movement.

Ajamy teamed up with two like-minded women from Beirut, Ibtihaj Qaddura, and Julie Demashkieh, and began caring for families that were affected by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. They founded
a charity club, a hospital in Damascus, and an orphanage in Beirut.