This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Sibil (October 21, 1863)

Sibil became one of the important names of women literature in Western Armenian literature at the turn of the twentieth century, and her teaching and public activities made her a name in the society of Constantinople.

She was born as Zabel Khanjian on October 21, 1863, in the district of Scutari (Üsküdar) in Constantinople. She was initially home schooled and then educated at the Soorp Khatch School and the Scutari Lyceum, from which she graduated in 1879. She was one of the founders of the Society of Nation-Dedicated Armenian Women, an organization that supported the construction, maintenance, and operation of Armenian girl schools throughout the Armenian-populated districts of the Ottoman Empire.  

In 1881, she married attorney Garabed Donelian and left to teach in the provinces, where she gave momentum to the construction of schools for girls. Then she continued teaching in Constantinople. In 1897, she wrote the textbook Practical Grammar of Contemporary Modern Armenian, a classical grammar book that has been revised and republished many times with the help of Hrant Asadour, whom she would marry in 1901 after her first husband passed away. In 1898, Krikor Zohrab and Asadour, together with Sibil, resumed the publication of the literary weekly Masis. Sibil also wrote general articles about education and pedagogy, as well as poems for children.  

Sibil was best known for her literary works. In the 1880s she published her poems in Massis and Hairenik. In 1891, she published her novel The Heart of a Girl and a poetry collection, Reflections, in 1902, mostly romantic and patriotic poems. She also wrote short stories, particularly about women. She also wrote for theater and one of her most famous works is the play The Bride.  

Sibil kept her interest in public life after the Genocide but suffered a stroke and spent the last years of her life bedridden. She died in Istanbul on June 19, 1934.