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COLLECTIONEncyclopedia articles
TITLEGail, Marzieh
AUTHOR 1Wendy M. Heller
TITLE_PARENTEncyclopaedia Iranica
PUB_THISColumbia University
ABSTRACTBrief excerpt, with link to article offsite.
NOTES The following is an excerpt of the article at
CROSSREFObituary (Chen, 1996)
TAGSMarzieh Gail
CONTENT GAIL, MARZIEH (b. near Boston, Mass., 1 April 1908; d. San Francisco, 16 October 1993; Figure 1), Persian-American Bahaʾi author, essayist, and translator. She was the second child of ʿAliqoli (Ali-Kuli) Khan Nabil-al-Dawla, the Iranian consul in Washington, and Florence Breed of Boston; their marriage was the first Persian-American marital union in the Bahaʾi community. ʿAliqoli Khan was from Kashan; his father met the Bab in 1845 and became a Babi and later a Bahaʾi (Gail, 1987, p. 6). Florence Breed became a Bahaʾi through her husband. In 1912, at the age of four, Marzieh met ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, then head of the Bahaʾi Faith, during his journey to the West. He is said to have remarked that the child had āteš (fire) and namak (salt; Gail, 1991, p. 87). She grew up “half Eastern and half Western, neither this nor that and yet both” (Gail, 1991, p. 273).

Marzieh’s education was conducted by a series of private tutors, since her father's diplomatic work meant that the family had to move frequently, living in Washington, D.C., Paris, Tehran, Istanbul, and Tbilisi. While living in Iran as a child, she observed at close range court life in the waning years of the Qajar era, although she avoided events where she would have to go veiled, which she disliked. Her family were often guests at the opulent royal residences including the Kāḵ-e Ṣāḥebqarāniya, where, as a child, she once had a comic debate with the young Aḥmad Shah (r. 1909-24; Gail, 1991, p.136). When she was fifteen, her parents received a marriage proposal for her from the shah himself. Her parents declined, because they were determined to see their daughter educated. She later wrote that they thus saved her from “that quicksand” (Gail, 1991, p. 246). Her father, who had been appointed minister of the court of Crown Prince Moḥammad-Ḥasan Mirzā (Gail, 1991, pp. 254-55), frequently received death threats; the family was denounced by the clerics from the pulpit of the mosques for being “Babis” and because the daughters were known to appear in public unveiled. The family felt, however, that the attacks were instigated by foreign sources seeking to block his efforts at economic development and fiscal reform (Gail, 1991, p. 254).


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