Why do you do what you do?

I have two heroes: Tahereh and Tahirih.

1848: The state of women in Iran was dire – being a woman meant suppression, servitude, and violence. Then came Tahirih – erudite and brave, a poet and scholar. In that year, at a large gathering of men, Tahirih entered and spoke, "I am the Blast of the Trumpet.” She tore off her veil and called for freedom, justice, and equality for women. For this she was arrested and exiled. In 1852, under interrogation, she stated, “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you will never stop the emancipation of women.” She was thereafter executed – strangled with her own scarf and thrown into a well. She was 36.

1982: At the age of 36, Tahereh gave birth to a girl. She fled Iran because the state of the Bahá'ís had grown ever more dire. To give her three daughters and son a chance for equality, education, and freedom to rise to their potential, Tahereh left all she knew to shepherd them to America. They were poor refugees – but not lost. Her love, character and nerve – all that makes her Tahereh, has been as a beacon for her family. I will ever be grateful to be that daughter.

When I think of my two heroes, I draw strength; they share not just a name, but a legacy of courage. I strive for this.

To women leaders today and tomorrow, I ask: think of your heroes.

How do you honor their example?

— Rosita Najmi

Photography by Tony Deifell, MBA '02