Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Vera  Nazarian

Elayna  Bastajian 
American Missionaries in Armenia

Vera Nazarian: A Woman’s Strength and Power

Vera Nazarian’s fantasy novellas tell the stories of women who are victimized by a man’s control, and struggle to escape the chauvinistic attitudes of men. When each woman succeeds, she is able to empower herself and show the man in her life that he is not superior. Vera Nazarian reveals that at a young age women are trying to find their true selves. Throughout life they encounter struggles and difficulties which teach them valuable lessons. By learning from these experiences they are able to grow in strength and power, making them equal to, or superior to, the men in their lives. Nazarian explains in her novella, Dreams of a Compass Rose, that when a woman is born, she tends to develop masculine characteristics as she matures, whereas a man developes feminine characteristics. She notes that, “there is no shame in that, no weakness, rather the power of the divine comes to fill you more fully, for the divine is neither man nor woman but both.” (188). Nazarian’s works give women the confidence to realize their own potential.

Just as Nazarian’s female characters grow in strength and ability, American missionary women empowered their Armenian counterparts to become educated, active members of society during the late ninetenth and early twentieth centuries. Armenian men opposed education for women, and expected Armenian women to be the caretakers of the family. American missionaries, however, offered educational opportunities that enabled Armenian women to move beyond their traditional roles as caretakers Although Armenian women kept their traditional customs and heritage, they also adopted western ideals such as women’s development and autonomy. They accomplished this by attending American schools and colleges, helping to reform medical care, and contributing more to their communities. Armenian women also received vocational education, which enabled them to begin working. American missionary dedication in the fields of education and medicine offered Armenian women a new perspective on life. They gained the opportunity to be involved in political activites. By the 1920s American missionaries had saved the lives of well over a million Armenian women.

Major Works Consulted:

Barton, James. Story of Near East Relief. New York: MacMillan, 1930.
Lovejoy, Esther Pohl. Certain Samaritans. New York: Macmillan, 1927.
Nazarian, Vera. Dreams of a Compass Rose. Berkeley Heights: Wildside 2002.
---. Salt of the Air. Rockville: Prime, 2006.
Photo Credit: Nazarian, Vera. “Picture of Author.” Email to Elayna Bastajian. 26 February 2009.