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Eugenie Gerges

Interview date
26th of July, 2004

Eugenie Gerges

School Principal/ Head of Department

Eugenie Gerges is an Egyptian woman pioneer of education, and the Principal of Helwan Secondary School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Department of Geography, at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, in 1946, and worked as a teacher in a number of governorates, before serving as a principal and a head of department.

Eugenie was raised by a father who worked at the Ministry of Health, and a mother who received some education at American schools. Eugenie grew up with her younger brother and two sisters. Her older sister did not pursue further education beyond obtaining her school certificate from al-Saniya School. When her younger sister expressed her desire to complete her education after the primary stage, her parents objected, and refused in fear that she would get married late like Eugenie, who insisted on completing her school education, and even pursued a university education. Eugenie recalled that her younger sister remained angry at her parents until the very end, and that she never forgave them for denying her the right to complete her education.

Eugenie’s desire was to study at the Faculty of Sciences, in al-Abbasiya, but since it was far away from her home, she decided to join the Department of Geography at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, and graduated in 1946. She loved geography, and enjoyed her studies at the department. Eugenie recalled that there were 12 girls in her graduating class, among whom was Ms. Amna Ibrahim, who later became a school principal.

Upon her graduation, Eugenie studied education and psychology at the Institute for Education, in order to qualify as a teacher. During that time, she traveled on many trips, including a trip to Lebanon. Eugenie recounted that when the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Dr. Taha Hussein, announced a call for teachers to be seconded to teach in Iraq, she wanted to apply, but her father refused because she was a girl, and he did not want her to travel abroad.

When Eugenie was appointed as a teacher at al-Saniya School in Cairo, her father tried to transfer her to al-Mansoura, given the family’s residence there at the time. However, Eugenie ended up being transferred to Tanta, then to al-Mansoura, and then to Alexandria where she spent what she described as the happiest period of her life working at a school’s boarding division for 4 years. She then moved to teach at Heliopolis Secondary School for Girls in Cairo, where she taught Queen Nariman in her fourth year of high school. Eugenie was later appointed as the Principal of Helwan Secondary School, where she served for five years, before working as a department head until her retirement.

Although she received many marriage offers earlier in her life, Eugenie did not get married until the age of 36. She married her colleague’s brother, who was a professor at the Faculty of Arts. She recalled traveling with him to several European countries, including Spain, where they stayed for a month, and spoke about the churches and museums she visited, and the flamenco dances and bullfighting shows she watched. She also traveled to Rome and Vienna, and recounted many interesting memories of the countries she visited. Eugenie recalled that she refused to visit the USA because, for her, it was a new country, with no monuments or landmarks to visit.

After her husband’s death, Eugenie lived alone at their home in Sarayat al-Maadi. When she got robbed by her housemaid, one of her friends advised her to move to a retirement home in al-Maadi. Eugenie spoke about her loneliness and distress at the retirement home, since she was used to being around people, and having a busy social life.

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