Women's Roles in the Middle East and North Africa

by Ruth Margolies Beitler and Angelica R. Martinez


Many people would be surprised to know that women assumed combat roles during the time of the Prophet Muhammad and are even credited with saving Muhammad's life. Less surprising is the fact that, today, women in the Middle East make up only 28 percent of the labor force, considerably lower than other regions. Yet, a new and fascinating picture of these women is emerging.

Print Flyer

April 2010


Pages 225
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Women's Studies/General

This concise, content-rich volume provides an overview of women's roles in the Middle East and North Africa from the advent of Islam to the present.

Recent research shows that women in the Middle East and North Africa have played much larger roles in society than previously acknowledged. Women's Roles in the Middle East and North Africa explores these roles from both historical and contemporary perspectives, describing and analyzing the lives of women in the regions from the advent of Islam through contemporary times.

The book begins with an introduction that examines the pre-Islamic Middle East and North Africa. The balance of the chapters are organized thematically and provide detailed country studies for 19 nations. Chapters discuss work, law, religion, family, politics, and culture, exploring the changes women have undergone over a period of roughly 1,500 years.


  • A chronology of women's roles in the Middle East and North Africa encompassing work, religion, family, law, politics, and culture from pre-Islamic to contemporary times
  • Photographs illustrating various aspects of women's lives in the region
  • A selected bibliography including contemporary articles on new topics in women's research
  • A brief glossary of key terms such as abaya, sharia, and mahr


  • Brings together in one convenient volume an enormous amount of material on many aspects of women's lives throughout the Middle East and North Africa
  • Assesses various aspects of women's lives, including their role in law, family, politics, religion, culture, and work
  • Incorporates interesting insight into historical individuals to illuminate the topics relative to women in 19 Middle Eastern and North African countries
Series Description

Women's Roles through History

All around the world, women's vital role in history has only recently been acknowledged. Yet regardless of the era or the corresponding extent to which women's contributions have been previously ignored, underestimated, or misunderstood, women have always been instrumental to shaping human civilization and society.

Books in the Women's Roles through History series examine women's roles throughout a wide range of time periods and locations, including the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean during the colonial period, the American West in the 19th century, and countries in Asia in the modern day. The broad coverage of these titles includes women from peasants and slaves to queens and presidents, documenting the female experience within the contexts of family, work, politics, law, education, religion, arts and entertainment, science, and war.


  • Provides excellent reference information or material for classroom assignments for junior college and university-level courses
  • Examines the various nuanced dimensions and variations in women's lives and their roles in society due to different sociocultural arrangements; economic, political, religious, or legal influences; or historic events
  • Draws upon a wide variety of historical sources to promote an accurate, insightful, and engaging understanding of women's contributions and experiences throughout history and across all cultures
  • Offers insightful, accurate information about the extent of women's roles throughout world history that challenges common stereotypical images of females
  • Supplies extensive bibliographies of suggested readings and resources to promote further research on women's roles
Author Info

Ruth Margolies Beitler, PhD, is professor of comparative politics in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. Dr. Beitler is the author of The Path to Mass Rebellion: An Analysis of Two Intifadas and coauthor of The Fight for Legitimacy: Democracy vs. Terrorism.

Angelica R. Martinez is a U.S. Army officer who teaches international relations and comparative politics at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. She served in Iraq and Kuwait as an operations officer in 2003 and as a company commander in 2005.



"Beitler (Comparative Politics, U.S. Military Academy, West Point) and Martinez (International Relations, U.S. Military Academy, West Point) explore the historic and present-day roles of women in Middle Eastern and North African societies. Providing detailed information for 19 countries, chapters examine work, law, religion, family, politics, and culture, showing how the lives of women have changed since the rise of Islam. Revealing how women have played a much larger role in the region than had been thought, this interesting and well written book will appeal to readers wanting to know more about women’s lives in this increasingly important part of the world."—Reference & Research Book News

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Other Titles of Interest

Women's Roles in Asia cover imageWomen's Roles in Sub-Saharan Africa cover imageWomen's Roles in Nineteenth-Century America cover image
Women's Roles in Eighteenth-Century Europe cover imageWomen's Roles in the Middle Ages cover imageWomen's Roles in Eighteenth-Century America cover image

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