Tuba Azmudeh (1878-1936 AD) was an educator from a middle-class Iranian family who established one of the first schools for girls. Before the 1905 Constitutional Revolution, women had no rights, child marriages were common, and husbands could divorce their wives at any time. The discrimination was so entrenched in society that women had internalized and accepted it. Female education was against Islam and many believed that women didn’t even have the ability to learn.
In the early days of the Constitutional Revolution, a few women activists emerged. One of these was Tuba Azmudeh, who founded a girl school called Namus (Honor). Like many female activists, she encountered much hardship and antagonism. Another activist, Mah-Soltan Amir-e Sehhi, shared what these women had to struggle against:
“The first problem was the unwillingness of landlords to lease a house for the school, which they imagined would be a center of corruption. After a house had been found and the landlord reassured, certain people in the locality began to stir up opposition and cause trouble. They…removed the school signboard or threw stones at it…neighbors used to get loiterers—very often psychopaths who then prowled the streets as there were no lunatic asylums—to walk into the school’s premises and grin at the terrified girls, while they themselves would gather outside the gateway to enjoy the spectacle and jeer. In reply to complaints from the school’s governors, they stated that the best way to avoid further trouble would be to close this “den of iniquity” and let no more girls through its gate.”
Women’s education became a symbol of sexual corruption and the clergy accused schools of being centers of prostitution. Therefore, the founders of these schools, all of whom were women, made anxious efforts to justify educating girls. The selection of school names makes this clear: Namus (Honor), Effatiyeh (House of Chastity), Esmatiyeh (House of Purity) and Nasrotiyeh School for Veiled Girls.
Tuba Azmudeh, like her activist counterparts, continuously received death threats and was denigrated as immoral. But eventually, Namus school expanded in size and curriculum and achieved prestige as progressive Iranians send their daughters to study there. Azmudeh later began to offer courses to adult illiterate women and has been credited with inspiring other female educators in Iran. She died in 1936 at the young age of 57.