Public and cultural activist, philanthropist and organizer of charities, a friend of Armenian intellectuals
Ishkhanuhi Mariam Tumanyan considered the fight against injustice and social inequality to be the mission of her life. “I separated from the women of my time and went in a different direction,” she wrote in her memoirs.
Born in 1870 in Tbilisi in the family of public activist Markos Dolukhanyan, a renowned lawyer from Artsakh. She attended the first all-female Tbilisi Lyceum then, at the age of 17, married Georgi Tumanov, the chief editor of “Novoye obozrenie.”
During the Hamidian massacres of 1895-1896, Mariam Tumanyan started a carpet-making workshop for refugees, thus enabling them to overcome hardships with dignity. Mariam Tumanyan was the organizer and coordinator of the Khudadyan Orphanage (for girls) of the Armenian Charitable Organization of the Caucasus. The sanatorium in Abastuman for patients with tuberculosis was initiated and built due to her efforts. Much to her father’s dismay, Mariam devoted herself to the orphanage she founded in Dilijan for children surviving the Armenian Genocide.
“My poor daddy, you had forgotten that I myself was a mother of six children and you wanted me to obey you as a little girl. You were right to worry about my kids but here there were only six children, while there it was thousands of them who had suffered, who were exhausted and deprived of motherly love…how could I hesitate? Of course not!”
Mariam Tumanyan also supported writers and intellectuals of the time. In 1902, together with Gabriel Sundukyan, she founded the Armenian Drama Company in Tbilisi and contributed to the opening of the Havlabar Theater. She played an active role in the life of Hovhannes Tumanyan as well. Several books of the famous writer were published with the patronage of Mariam Tumanyan.
Mariam also founded the Ishkhanuhi Mariam Tumanyan & Co-publishing house which published several books for children, particularly the Armenian-language Colorful Alphabet and the Children’s Library series. She also worked for Aghbyur, Mshak, Hasker and other periodicals. Mariam continued her patriotic work during the Soviet rule, during which she became a member of the Armenian Relief Committee and wrote for Karmir Tsiler and Proletar newspapers.
From A. Harutyunyan’s book Times of Prominent Ladies (Yerevan, 2005).