Laura Dreyfus-Barney: An American Woman's Connections with Iran and Iranians

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Institutional Affiliation : 
Independent Scholar
Academic Bio: 
Mona Khademi has a BA in psychology from Shiraz University (formerly Pahlavi University) and a Master’s Degree in Arts Management from the American University in Washington, DC. She has studied towards a PhD Degree in organization psychology at the Imperial College, University of London. She has presented papers at international conferences in Persian and English such as the IV International Dialogue on The Transition to a Global Society, University of Maryland; at the Persian Arts and Letters at Landegg Academy in Switzerland; The Persian Arts and Letters in Liria, Spain; at the Association for Baha’i Studies annual conferences in Canada and the US; at the forums of Friends of Persian Culture Association in Chicago; Persian Arts and Letters in London, England; and at the Irfan Colloquium in Italy and Michigan, US. Several or her papers have been published in the proceedings of the conferences, and in the following book and periodicals: Divisive Barbarity or Global Civilization (University of Maryland Press, 1966) , The Journal of Arts Management; Law and Society (Spring 1999, Vol. 29, No. 1); KHOOSH-I-HAI AZ KHARMAN-I-ADAB VA HONAR (No. 10,1999, in Persian); DANESH VA BINESH (in Persian); Herald of the South (Australia, Jan-Mar 1999); Arts Dialogue (2000); SAFINI-Y-I IRFAN (Book XII, June 2009, in Persian) ; and The Lights of Irfan (Book X, June 2009).She is the founder and president of the Washington Friends of the International Society for International Studies (AIS), and is active with the Friends of Encyclopedia Iranica in Washington, DC. Ms. Khademi is the director of International Arts Management Consulting, based in Washington, DC.

This paper examines the life and works of Laura Dreyfus-Barney (1879-1974) and her connections with Iran and Iranians. Introduced to the Baha’i Faith in 1900 in Paris, she accepted its teachings. She traveled to Akka, Palestine the same year and met the son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith, then confined to prison. On her many subsequent visits to that city, she learnt Persian and she asked him questions. Responses to these questions were compiled and published in a book titled Some Answered Questions; the book became the first and only Baha’i holy book not written by a central figure of the religion.  Laura Barney traveled to Iran in1906, visited several cities and met many Iranian dignitaries and government officials.  
The paper will analyze the impact of these encounters with Iranians in Iran and outside Iran and the importance of the book at the time when the new religion was starting to spread in the West. It will also examine the lives of those close to Laura Dreyfus-Barney who were influenced by meeting Iranians; including her mother, a notable artist and a prominent civil and social leader and her husband, the first French citizen to become a Baha’i. In time, the latter learned Arabic and Persian and devoted his life to the study of religions and oriental studies. He accompanied his wife to Iran and collaborated with her on many publications and translation projects.
Based on various published books ands diaries, as well as articles, obituaries, biographies and original archival materials in English, Persian and French in the US, France, Israel and possibly Iran, the paper argues that contacts with Iran and Iranians shaped the life and achievements of this remarkable early 20th century American woman. 

Academic Discipline : 
History, Baha'i Faith, Borgraphy Women's Studies, Middle East Studies
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Other : 
Ealry 20th century

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