NEW YORK – Nearly 18 centuries have passed from the day when Hripsime, Gayane, and other Christian virgins, escaping from Rome’s persecution, settled down in Armenia. The representation of the role of women in Armenian history goes as far back as the Ancient and Middle Ages, to Hripsime and Gayane and other martyrs whose names are recorded at the very birth of Christianity in Armenia. The Permanent Representation of Armenia to the United Nations has organized an event dedicated to the role of women in Armenian history and state building in the context of the annual International Women’s Day on March 8 and the 30th anniversary of Armenia’s membership in the United Nations, which commenced on March 2, 1992. Ever since, the second day of March has been celebrated as Diplomats Day in Armenia.
The exhibition in the hallways of the UN headquarters kicked off on March 8. Its billboards tell the stories of Sts. Hripsime and Gayane, writer and activist Zabel Yesayan (1878-1943), Armenian poet Silva Kaputikyan (1919-2006), chess grandmaster Elina Danielian (currently Europe’s chess champion), sisters Sofia and Ruzanna Lalayan, who fought against the Nazis in besieged Leningrad, and many others. Armenian scholar Mkhitar Gosh (12th-13th centuries) highlighted the importance of equality between the sexes in his writings. So did public figure and thinker Shahamir Shahamirian, who underscored the importance of ensuring equality between men and women; in his seminal work Snare of Glory. All this was highlighted by Ambassador Mher Margaryan, the Chief of Armenia’s Diplomatic Mission at the UN, at the opening of the exhibition.
Did you know that Armenia had a female ambassador about three decades before President Harry Truman appointed Eugenie Anderson to be the first American woman ambassador (1949)? Diana Abgar’s (1859-1937) baptismal name was Gayane, perhaps named after St. Gayane. Thanks to her efforts, Japan recognized the independence of the first Armenian Republic (1918-1920). After that, Prime Minister Ohanjanian appointed her to be Armenia’s Ambassador to Japan. According to many sources, she is the first female ambassador in the history of Armenia and the world.
“In 1918, the Republic of Armenia was one of the few states in the world to entitle women with not only the right to vote but also to be elected, with three women becoming members of parliament of the first Armenian Republic. At present, the Armenian Parliament has achieved a record of 35 percent of women in its legislature – a major step towards advancing gender equality and women empowerment in politics,” noted Margaryan.
For the last two years, Margaryan chaired the 64th and 65th sessions of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
The Armenian exhibit will last for another week.