Parashqevi Qiriazi, the “Morning Star” of Women’s Emancipation

Few women have accomplished what Parashqevi Qiriazi undertook and achieved in her lifetime. Born on June 2, 1880, in Manastir, she devoted her life to the Albanian language’s alphabet and to learning the written Albanian language. She later became one of the central figures of the Albanian Enlightenment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Following in the footsteps of her sister, Sevasti Qiriazi, Parashqevi continued her studies at the Istanbul college for girls, “Robert College,” focusing on literature, where she distinguished herself through her student activities. Subsequently, she became a teacher and, just a few months later, assumed the role of the head of the Albanian Girls’ School in Korçë, Albania.

As pioneers in the emancipation of Albanian women and girls, the Qiriazi sisters hold an esteemed position in the history of Albanian education and culture. They are particularly remarkable for establishing their girls’ school during a challenging period when the country faced significant backwardness, and women were oppressed, marginalized, and kept in ignorance and obscurity.

Parashqevi embraced the view and mission of Gjerasim Qiriazi, believing that only through education could the soul of a nation emerging from darkness be transformed and liberated. She understood that a nation would experience swifter progress during its renaissance if women and girls, as the core of the family, were educated. Parashqevi dedicated herself to the education of Albanian girls, striving for their upliftment and cultural enlightenment. She achieved this through her involvement with the “Morning Star” association and her contributions to the press of her time, as explained by the researcher of her life and work, Teuta Toska.

In 1908, Parashqevi served as the envoy of the Girls’ School at the significant Congress of Manastir, where she was appointed as the secretary of the eleven delegates tasked with addressing the issue of the Albanian alphabet. Subsequently, in 1909, she authored the Primer using the new Albanian alphabet and also composed the Albanian alphabet anthem. Parashqevi, alongside her sister, is renowned for her contributions to the emancipation of Albanian women and for her pivotal role in establishing the first women’s association, “Morning Star,” in the city of Korça in 1912.

In 1913, she successfully earned her master’s degree in education from Oberlin College in Ohio. Her master’s thesis was dedicated to designing a national education system for the recently liberated Albania. Parashqevi’s significant contributions to the emancipation of Albanian girls and women led UNESCO, on the 50th anniversary of her passing, to draw comparisons with prominent international figures. They noted, “Her pioneering role in the education and emancipation of women in the Ottoman Empire can only be compared with the achievements of Marianne Hainisch in Austria, Annestine Beyer in Denmark, or Maria Montessori in Italy.”

Parashqevi and Sevastia also made contributions to the periodical “Shqiptarja,” published by the organization “Gruaja Shqiptare”, which operated between 1928 and 1939. The magazine was known for featuring “provocative” articles aimed at challenging conservative ideologies that opposed the women’s movement and its demands.

In 1914, due to the Greek occupation of Korçë during World War I, Parashqevi, together with her sister, left Albania for Romania and later traveled to the United States, where she became a prominent figure in the Albanian-American community. She returned to Albania in 1921.

Parashqevi remained a steadfast anti-fascist during World War II, starting with the Italian invasion in 1939. Her anti-fascist stance led to her and her sister’s imprisonment and exile to the Anhalteleger Dedinje camp near Belgrade by pro-Nazi units. She survived and returned to Tirana after the war. Unfortunately, further persecution followed her and her sister’s family, this time from the communist regime, due to her brother-in-law Kristo Dako’s pro-monarchy stance.