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?? Remembering May Ziade, one of the Arab world’s early feminists | Al Jazeera English

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Marie Elias Ziade, or May, was a key Lebanese-Palestinian figure in the Arab literary scene in the early 20th century who firmly established herself as a vibrant female voice in what was clearly a man’s world at the time.

She was a journalist but also wrote fiction with strong female characters, poetry, political and cultural books and magazine articles, often on the condition of Arab women.

She questioned the social norms and cultural values of the period; in trying to tackle Arab patriarchy wrote: “We chant beautiful words in vain…words of freedom and liberty. If you, men of the East, keep the core of slavery in your homes, represented by your wives and daughters, will the children of slaves be free?”

While she had many admirers, she did not entertain any of these suitors because she was only in love with one man, the Lebanese poet and one of the Arab literary greats, Gibran Khalil Gibran.

The relationship between May and Gibran lasted for 19 years until Gibran’s death in 1931.

Extraordinarily, the two never met – but their relationship enriched Arabic epistolary literature with the most beautiful correspondence.

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