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In Memory: Sattareh Farman Farmaian

Sattareh Farman Farmaian. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

Sattareh Farman Farmaian, who was considered the “mother of social work” in Iran, died in Los Angeles on May 21 at age 90, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times.

Farmaian was the daughter of a Persian prince and grew up in opulent surroundings. However, she frequently came in contact with the poor and underprivileged and decided to devote her life to helping them.

Farmaian was educated in the United States, something almost unheard of for Iranian women during World War II. She earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California in 1948.

She returned to Iran in 1958 and opened and became the first director of the Tehran School of Social Work. The school also set up community welfare clinics dedicated to literacy, child care and women’s health.

Farmaian went into exile in the United States when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. Farmaian narrowly escaped execution because she had been denounced for progressive social work activities, including setting up family planning clinics.

She continued working with disadvantaged communities after returning to Los Angeles. Although many of the social welfare institutions she created in Iran do not continue in their original form the Islamic government continues to do many of their functions.

Farmaian, who was divorced, is survived by a daughter and two grandchildren.

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