This essay examines the Eastern Women’s Congresses in Damascus (1930) and Tehran (1932) to show how Middle Eastern women attempted to stake their own claim to modernity within the established terms of nationalist and international feminist discourses. I argue that in organizing across national boundaries, in seeking recognition from the international women’s movement, and above all in articulating a uniquely “Eastern” framework in which to ground women’s rights, the delegates tried to create an autonomous women’s movement that was allied with but independent from both Middle Eastern male nationalists and Western feminists. Simultaneously drawing inspiration and seeking autonomy from Western models, theirs was an attempt to define feminism in their own terms—one that defied the presumption of male reformers who tried to arrogate to themselves the task of modernizing Eastern womanhood.

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