Julia Tu’mah Dimashqiyah Biography
Julia Tu’mah Dimashqiyah (Arabic: جوليا طعمة دمشقية, 1882-1954) was a Lebanese pioneer in education, social affairs, and journalism. She was born in Al-Mukhtara in Mount Lebanon, and was one of the first Christian girls to receive an education at the American school for Girls in Sidon, Kfarshima School and the Shuwayfat School. Julia gained her teaching degree at 17, then she taught in Shafa Amr (Palestine) and Broummana (Lebanon). She met Badr Dimishqiya, who was responsible for the education department in Al- Makassed Islamic Charitable Association, and he asked her to direct the first girls’ school for the association in 1914. Later, she married Badr (a Muslim man), and their inter-faith marriage was deemed revolutionary at a time when such marriages were not socially accepted. In 1917, Julia played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Women’s Association and Women’s Club in Beirut. The association aimed at encouraging the Syrian women to work in the era of modern renaissance. Well-known members of the club included Afifa Saab, Mari Yanni and Najla abi Lama’ among others. Dimashqiyah published the monthly al-Marʼah al-jadīdah (Arabic: المرأة الجديدة; The New Woman) from 1921 to 1927. It was the first women’s magazine in Lebanon, and was among the most respected in the region. Its international fame would be equaled only by al-ʻArūs, published by Mary 'Ajami. Julia usually addressed women in her column entitled “إلى ابنة بلادي” “To the daughters of my country,” where she called upon women to occupy their rightful place in society. Shepromoted for independent education, improving family life and elevating the Syrian women literarily, scientifically and socially. Dimashqiyah published in other journals as well, and she wrote children’s stories in the children’s magazine Samir al-sighar and al-Nadim newspaper. Julia was a friend and admirer of the great female writer May Ziadeh, and in 1924 she published a book about May’s visit to Beirut and Syria. In 1943, at sixty years old, Julia fell ill and was bedridden, never to rise again, yet she continued to receive people in her literary salon. She tirelessly pursued her work as a journalist but also as an activist for girls’ access to education. This determination earned her the Lebanese Golden Order of Merit in 1947. She passed away in Sawfar in 1954.
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