A Syrian journalist, writer, and poet, Mary Abduh Ajami (Arabic: ماري عجمي, 1888-1965) was born in Damascus in an upper-class Christian family. She grew up in an atmosphere of burning national zeal, nourished by the visions of an Arab revolt. She was educated at Russian and Irish schools, before she studied Nursing at the American College of Beirut in 1906.
Ajami worked as an Arabic literature teacher in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria and gave some lectures in Iraq. She was appointed as a first female teacher at the Russian School in Damascus in 1906.
Her interests in journalism were early awakened when she started publishing articles dealing with social reform and romantic poems. She published the journal al-‘Arus (The Bride - العروس), from 1910-1914. al-‘Arus was a literary magazine issued to general public, and was at that time the only women’s magazine in Syria. Ajami struggled to keep her journal alive despite her father’s attempts to persuade her to quit. The journal reappeared after the First World War, but again suspended publication in 1926 for financial reasons.
Mary’s poetry shows the influence of Western romantic poets. She established the Damascus Women Literary Club in 1920 and the Literary League in Damascus in 1921 (or 1922), which lasted for three years. She opened her home to writers for literary and intellectual debates. The clubs aimed at strengthening the relationships among women by holding public meetings and giving its members a platform to give lectures. One of the club’s achievements was the founding of a public library for women. Mary also translated short stories and essays from English to Arabic.
Mary’s name is associated with the nationalists who struggled against Turkish domination. Her interests in political matters led her to support the nationalist movement with her pen and speeches .She visited leaders in prison and even interceded in their favor. During the French mandate, she continued her struggle for national independence and reform. She wrote numerous works under the name of her mother, Layla, to avoid reprisals.
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- Lebanese American University. “Mary Ajami (1880-1965)”. Al-Raida Journal, 1, p. 4, doi:10.32380/alrj.v0i0.1649.