parashqevi-qiriazi_arkiva_albert-vataj_p1080241 2Few women have undertaken what Paraskevi D. Kyrias (Parashqevi D. Qiriazi) achieved in her lifespan. In 1880, the tenth and youngest child of Dhimitri and Maria was born in the vilayet of Monastir in the Ottoman Empire. As a child she learned to speak five languages and as a young woman she mastered two more. Although small in stature, she was formidable in influence. After her graduation in 1904 from the prominent American College for Girls in Constantinople, where she served as president of the student government in her senior year, she was appointed acting principal and a teacher of the first Albanian girls’ school from 1904-1905 and again in 1910-1911 while her sister Sevasti Kyrias was away. In 1907-1908, Paraskevi was the translator and language teacher for the newly arrived missionary Mr. Phineas B. Kennedy, sent from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at the request of the school.

In 1908, as a delegate of the Girls’ School to the momentous Alphabet Congress of Monastir, Paraskevi was appointed secretary for the eleven prestigious men selected to settle the Albanian alphabet question. Thereafter, she wrote the 1909 grammar book (Abetare) according to the newly chosen Albanian script. She is renowned, along with her sister, for the emancipation of Albanian women and for her key role in organizing the first women’s society—Yll’ i Mëngjesit (Morning Star)—in 1912 in the city of Kortcha. In 1913, she gained a master’s degree in education from Oberlin College in Ohio. Her thesis prescribed a national educational system for Albania in their newfound freedom.

Following the Balkan Wars and at the outburst of World War I, she fled for her life (as did many), moving to Bucharest in 1914 and on to the United States in 1915. In Boston, she devoted her life to the liberation of her nation and to the emancipation of women, as founder and editor of an American-based Albanian magazine (also called Yll’ i Mëngjesit) from 1917-1920. In 1919, she sailed to Paris as the only Albanian woman diplomat at the Versailles Peace Conference, representing the Albanian National Party of America. Despite powerful campaigns to divide Albania amongst its neighbors, the conference generally affirmed Albania’s borders as they had been drawn in 1913 at the London Peace Conference.

Early in the 1920s, Paraskevi returned to Albania with her brother-in-law and sister, Kristo and Sevasti Kyrias Dako, to continue to educate girls. Their newly formed Kyrias Girls’ Institute near Tirana would provide necessary teachers for many of Albania’s new schools. The relatively unknown life of this valiant patriot, Paraskevi Kyrias, merits further historical research and biographical writings.

–Dana Stucky

This article is taken with permission from Dana Stucky’s preface to the 2014 e-book reprint of Paraskevi Kyrias’ booklet “The Kortcha Girls School,” originally published ca. 1913 in Chicago by the Woman’s Board of Missions of the Interior.