Friday, July 17, 2015

Lucia Michaelian of Marash, a Bible Woman?

Recently, Phil Hanna wrote to Marash Girl:  A woman historian who has been researching and inventoring archival materials in Lebanon and studying some of the activities of the Protestant missionaries and their churches,  posed this question to me:
I wanted to ask you a question about your mother. I was talking to a
colleague about Armenian women and their important role in maintaining
the community especially after WWI and we were unsure if there was a
history of Armenian women serving as nuns or evangelical workers
outside of war time? I believe that there were Armenian female
monasteries and that Armenian women continue to play an important role
in the community but on a unofficial level. Do you know if there was a
movement among Armenian Evangelical women to become Biblewomen (like
there was with the women in Syrian and Lebanon during the late 19th
and early 20th century)? Or am I completely wrong with this
I did not have a sense of an answer.  I had not heard the term Biblewomen before.  What do you think?

Marash Girl's Response to Phil Hanna:
She was a tall woman, with very white hair that was cut just below her ears and somewhat curly. Miss Michaelian used to come to our house when I was a little girl.  She spoke English precisely.  She didn't look Armenian; she looked more like my Yankee school teachers!
[My Uncle, Rev. Vartan Bilezikian (author of Apraham Hodja of Aintab which is online) and the son of Rev. Sarkis Bilezikian (the first protestant minister of Marash), lived in Newtonville where I grew up and I have the sense worked closely with Lucia Michaelian.] Miss Michaelian, I’m sure, was a Biblewoman, though certainly not called that in English.  She was a religious woman who visited homes, and must have come to visit my blind grandmother who lived upstairs, but I distinctly remember her standing in the doorway to our living room and talking with my father.  What they talked about, I could not say.  Probably around 1944 or 1945.

Some more info on Lucia Michaelian from her grand niece Berta Bilezikjian who lives in California:
Lucia Michaelian was sister to Berta’s grandmother Kohar Michaelian Vahanian, born in Marash around 1900, the youngest of her family.  Excellent English, tall and slim, she used to preach when the preachers were away. She got her college degree in social welfare — would help Armenian immigrants.  Left Marash in the early 1920’s. She was working with the missionaries there.
We think she was a member of the Eastern Star.  She had a high pitched voice, sang hymns. died in 1956. she was  as good a preacher as anybody; she would preach when the preachers were out of town. she went to college in boston and returned to marash to teach in girls college. Her mother was housemother in the college. They stayed at the college for 14 years. Her older step-sister who had recently married and had a baby was killed in the genocide in 1920.  Missionary Mrs. Lyman told her mother  that the family could stay with the missionaries. The missionaries raised my mother (Zabel Vahanian), and taught her piano on their grand piano.  Mrs Lyman visited Berta in Aleppo and Boston. Berta's mother Zabelle and Mrs. Lyman played piano together during that visit. 


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