Mehrangiz Dowlatshahi (1919 – 2008 AD) was the first Iranian female ambassador before the 1979 Islamic revolution, who dedicated her life to fighting for women’s rights. She held several significant positions including being one of the first female members of parliament.
She was born to a powerful and established family. Her mother was of the renowned Sadeq Hedayat family and her father was a progressive man who believed in equality between men and women. He was in fact one of the few men who had encouraged Reza Shah to end compulsory veiling.
Mehrangiz attended a high school run by American missionaries and graduated in 1936 when she was only 15 years old. Even before Reza Shah banned the veil, she and some other students, would refuse to wear the veil and bravely appear in public wearing a hat. Her father died before he could send her to Europe to further her education and her grandfather was a much more traditional man who was against sending a single young girl to Europe. He finally allowed her to go in the company of relatives.
Mehrangiz studied in Germany and received a PhD in social and political science from Heidelberg University. Upon returning to Iran, she worked for several social services organizations. Eventually she established the Rah-e No (New Way) Society, which offered adult literacy programs and advocated equal rights for women. She served as a member of the parliament from 1963 to 1975 and contributed significantly to the passage of a new family law especially regarding women’s rights to file for divorce, which until then (as it is now again) a monopoly right of men. The Pahlavi government had to act with caution since it did not want to anger the clergy and bring about a political crisis.
Finally, she became the first woman ambassador of Iran. After the 1979 revolution she moved to Paris where she published a book titled “Society, Government and Iran’s Women’s Movement.” She died in Paris in October 2008.