Behind the Veil in Persia and Turkish Arabia. An Account of an Englishwoman's Eight Years' Residence Amongst the Women of the East


Behind the Veil in Persia and Turkish Arabia: An Account of an Englishwoman's Eight Years' Residence Amongst the Women of the East is an account by Mary Hume-Griffith, the wife of Dr. Albert Hume-Griffith, a British medical missionary, of living and working in Persia (Iran) and the Turkish province of Mosul (in present-day northern Iraq) in the years 1900‒1908. While her husband was engaged in medical work, Mary Hume-Griffith spent much time in the company of women, whose culture behind closed doors in andarun (women’s quarters) she generally describes with sensitivity. Her intention is “to give some account of the inner life of the East.” The book’s principal interest is in the entrée she enjoyed to the households of various social classes. The Hume-Griffiths spent three years in the Iranian cities of Kerman, Isfahan, and Yazd, to which Mrs. Hume-Griffith devotes several chapters that cover such diverse topics as local folklore, advice on buying carpets, and the handling of servants. Throughout the work, she offers descriptions of and comments on the condition of women. For all her access to the andarun, the author is decorously silent on most matters relating to marriage and on the topics of childbirth and child care. She does, however, decry the insecure status of the wives. She pays significant attention to the religious and ethnic minorities in Iran and northern Iraq, devoting chapters to the Baha’is, Parsees, Yazidis, Jews, Kurds, and Christians of various denominations. The chapters on public health and medical treatment are by Albert Hume-Griffith, based on his experiences as a medical missionary. The book is well illustrated with photographs by colleagues or from the files of the Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East, the London-based organization that sponsored the mission.

Last updated: April 29, 2016