If you thought the emancipation movement began in America or Europe, hit the books again, because it didn't. It began in a religious context in what was then known as Persia, now Iran.
"Táhirih (Arabic: "The Pure One") or Qurratu'l-`Ayn (Arabic: "Comfort of the Eyes") are both titles of Fátimih Baraghání (1817-1852), an influential poet and theologian of the Bábí faith in Iran," Bahaikipedia notes.
"As a prominent Bábí she is highly regarded by Bahá’ís, and often mentioned in Bahá’í literature as an example of courage in the struggle for women's rights.
"Táhirih also holds a unique theological importance; as she is explained by The Báb (Arabic: "The Gate") to be the spiritual return of Fátimih, daughter of Prophet Muhammad, and one of the fourteen Shi‘i infallibles. Her date of birth is uncertain, as birth records were destroyed at her execution."
Born in Qazvín in 1817, the daughter of a powerful and influential cleric in Persia, Fátimih Baraghání was unlike other girls.
"Her father, Hájí Mullá Sálih Baraghání, ... educated her beyond the elementary level which was a novelty for women at the time," Bahaikipedia notes.
"Fátimih was even allowed to participate in the male discussions, albeit behind a curtain. She was well versed in the Qur’án as well as classic Persian literature and scripture. Her brother once remarked how she surpassed all her siblings in intelligence and knowledge. Her father’s pupil wondered how a woman so beautiful could be so knowledgeable."
Despite her father's efforts, she did not escape suffocating male chauvinism and was married at the tender and too young age of 13.
"Despite the fact couple had three children, the marriage was plagued with squabbles," Bahaikipedia states.
Táhirih's children, Ibráhim and Ismá’il, did not ever become Bábís or Bahá’ís. Her daughter passed away shortly after her mother's martyrdom.
Her first contact with the Bábí Faith came when she read some books on the new movement while in the home of a cousin.
"With help from Javád and her Shaykhí uncle Mullá ‘Alí she began a correspondence with Siyyid Kázim," Bahaikipedia states.
"Pleased with her piety and fervour he named her Qurrát’ul-‘Ayn 'Solace of the Eyes'. Her father, uncle and husband objected to this as they hated the movement.
"But, gifted with eloquence, she persuaded her family to allow to her go on pilgrimage to Karbilá and Najaf. However, what she really wanted was to see Siyyid Kázim. With her sister Mardíyyih Khánum, she made a journey to the holy cities. But to her dismay on arriving Siyyid Kázim had died ten days earlier. She made a strong bond with his widow who allowed her to see some unpublished works of Siyyid Kázim."
It was not long before Táhirih became a teacher of the world's newest faith at that time. It didn't take long for the male-only Shi'a clergy in Karbala to take a disapproving note of her efforts.
"There she started giving public statements teaching the new faith, and challenging and debating issues with the Shi'a clergy," Bahaikipedia states. "At this point the authorities in Baghdad argued with the governor that since Táhirih was Persian she should instead be arguing her case in Iran, and the authorities escorted Táhirih and a number of other Bábís out of Baghdad to the Persian border.
"... After The Báb's arrest in 1848, Bahá’u’lláh made arrangements for Táhirih to leave Tehran and attend a conference of Bábí leaders in Badasht. She is perhaps best remembered for appearing in public without her veil in the course of this conference signalling that the Islamic Sharia law was abrogated and superseded by Bábí law. One of the conservative male Bábís is recorded to have ripped his own throat open at seeing he unveiled. It was at the Badasht conference that she was given the title Táhirih by Bahá’u’lláh which means 'the Pure One'."
A woman announcing the end of Islamic Sharia law was shocking and it sealed her fate.
"After the Conference of Badasht, Táhirih was arrested by officials and imprisoned in Tihrán," Bahaikipedia states. " Despite the fact that Táhirih had made herself great allies and a wave of followers, she had made many enemies particularly the clergy. Whilst in the house of Mahmúd Khá, the Kalántar she still earned respect from women around Tehran who flocked to see her and even the kalántar himself.
In 1852, as members of the new faith were massacred throughout Persia, Táhirih was said to have been fearless when she was told of her fate.
"When the day came, she washed, prayed, dressed herself in a white gown and adorned herself with expensive perfume," Bahaikipedia notes. "...She was lead into a garden to be killed, but the men seemed to have been too scared to do so. Instead, they found a drunk who viciously strangled her with a scarf. Her body was thrown into a well and stones thrown on top of it. ... The Sháh of Persia, who offered to marry her, was said to have experienced genuine grief over her death. She was thirty-five, and the mother of three children."
"Thus ended the life of this great Bábí heroine," wrote Shoghi Effendi in the book titled "God Passes By", "the first woman suffrage martyr, who, at her death, turning to the one in whose custody she had been placed, had boldly declared: 'You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.'
"Her career was as dazzling as it was brief, as tragic as it was eventful. Unlike her fellow-disciples, whose exploits remained, for the most part unknown, and unsung by their contemporaries in foreign lands, the fame of this immortal woman was noised abroad, and traveling with remarkable swiftness as far as the capitals of Western Europe, aroused the enthusiastic admiration and evoked the ardent praise of men and women of divers nationalities, callings and cultures.
"Little wonder that 'Abdu'l-Bahá should have joined her name to those of Sarah, of Asiyih, of the Virgin Mary and of Fatimih, who, in the course of successive Dispensations, have towered, by reason of their intrinsic merits and unique position, above the rank and file of their sex."
‘Abdu’l-Bahá also described her as "a brand afire with the love of God" and "a lamp aglow with the bounty of God."