Selected Women Writing in Persian

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Nur Jahan (1577 – 1645), was the favorite wife of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569 – 1627), and the aunt of Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the Taj Mahal was built. She was the most powerful woman in India during much of her husband’s reign. The language of the Mughal courts was Persian, and the writing of fluent Persian verse was an expected accomplishment of Mughal courtiers.

Jahan Khanom (1805 – 1873), was the wife (and cousin) of Mohammad Shah Qajar (1808 – 1848), and the mother of Nasraddin Shah Qajar (1831 – 1896), both 19th-century shahs of Iran. After her husband’s death in 1848, she briefly acted as regent until her son’s coronation. She is credited with having been one of the most politically astute of all the Qajar royal family.

Ayesheh-ye afghan, a late 18th- / early 19th-century poet who as a young woman was a member of the court of Taymur Shah Duranni, was the most successful of the 18th-century Afghan monarchs. Famous in her own lifetime, she is the most significant Afghan woman poet to have written in Persian; she wrote both secular and mystical poems in most of the genres of classical Persian verse. Her elegies for her son, killed during a war in Kashmir, are particularly admired.

Reshheh, a late 18th- / early 19th-century poet, was the daughter of a famous poet, Hatef of Isfahan. She is considered to be the finest woman poet writing in Persian between the end of the “classical” period of Persian literature in the 15th century, and the mid-19th century.