Thursday, February 14, 2013

Birth of Hayganoush Mark - February 14, 1885

Armenian female writers were not very common at the beginning of the twentieth century. Following the line opened by Eliz Gesaratsian, Serpouhie Dussape, Zabel Asadour, and Zabel Essayan, along came Hayganoush Mark, who became the mainstay of Armenian feminism in Constantinople during the first half of the twentieth century.

There are several options for her year of birth, as she gave different dates. However, her tombstone says 1885. She studied at the Essayan Lyceum, where one of her main teachers was poet Zabel Asadour (1863-1934). She entered the literary arena at the turn of the twentieth century. Besides her poetry and prose, she was particularly active as a journalist and an advocate for female rights and social issues.

Her activism prompted her to publish the journal Dzaghig (1905-1907) at the age of 24. Despite its short duration, Dzaghig focused the attention of female writers and opened a window on their issues. She married journalist Vahan Toshigian in 1907 and moved to Smyrna, where she published the women’s page of his newspaper Arshaluys. 

Her most important achievement was the publication of the journal Hay Guin (1919-1933) in Constantinople. Published in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, the journal raised issues of feminism, the situation of women survivors, and other social questions until the rise of Kemalism. Hayganoush Mark’s incisive style gained her wide popularity. Afterwards, mounting political pressure on the Armenian community forced her to tone down her articles, until the closing of the journal by the Turkish government in 1933. The reasons remained unclear.

She published a volume of literary works, From My Moments of Idleness, in 1921. The fiftieth anniversary of her literary and journalistic work was celebrated in 1954 in Istanbul. A book called Hayganoush Mark: Her Life and Deeds was published in 1954. Her health worsened in her last years and she moved to the Armenian Hospital of Istanbul, where she passed away on March 7, 1966. Her library and belongings were bequeathed to the Seminary of Surp Khach (closed years later by the government and turned into a high school).