Founded in 1925 by Hoda Sharawi (1879-1947), an emblematic figure of Egyptian feminism, L'Égyptienne was the country’s first French-language feminist review.
This monthly, which was published for fifteen years, up until 1940, acquired a faithful readership as soon as it was launched, thanks to an editorial content based on the three pillars indicated in its subtitle: “Feminism, sociology, art”. Each of these three terms had a particular importance when it came to defining the identity of the new woman, embodied by the review, to which it was addressed.
L'Égyptienne was decidedly feminist: as the country’s first review to brandish high the standard of such political and social aspirations, L'Égyptienne joined the feminist combat that had started in 1919, which marked a major turning point in Egyptian national claims. A woman’s march, the setting-up of the central committee of the women of Wafd, and the organisation of a strike in front of parliament, preceded the drafting of a list of “political, social and feminine claims”, which was reproduced in the first number of L'Égyptienne, and stood as a manifesto. So it was that the review became the organ of the “Egyptian Feminist Union”, which was founded in 1923, regularly publishing the speeches of Hoda Sharawi or Ceza Nabarawi during gatherings in Egypt or abroad, in the defence of women.
In 1925, sociology was a new discipline and thus L'Égyptienne was the first review to speak, right on its cover, of modern issues considered using new disciplines. “Art” was the third pillar of this thought, managing to bring together tradition and modernity. L'Égyptienne was mostly made up of art criticism, with the local and foreign cultural life coming in for detailed examinations; while many studies were devoted to promoting female artists. The review published poems, poetic prose pieces, short stories, and tales that belonged to the literary tradition, as well as contemporary productions by male and female authors. It included texts by local writers, of various religious confessions, and male and female travellers to Egypt: the contents of the periodical sketched out a cartography of French or Francophone writers associated with the Orient.
L'Égyptienne was published in French, because its members were defending an international feminism, in a country where French enjoyed a real standing: “By founding this review in a language which is not ours, but which in Egypt, as everywhere, is spoken by all the elites, our aim is twofold: communicate abroad about Egyptian women, as they are in our era – with the risk of removing from them all their mystery and charm which their past reclusion gave them in the eyes of Westerners – and to enlighten European public opinion about the real political and social state of Egypt (no 1).” The French language was clearly identified as a means to address an enlightened elite and to communicate ideas abroad, with the idea of breaking with the indolent representation of the oriental woman, as conveyed by a certain Orientalist literature.