At Cairo salons she met Arab intellectuals of different
backgrounds, empowering herself in history, poetry, and literature.
At the turn of the century, Hashem went to
Cairo to pursue her literary and journalistic career, writing for the Egyptian
magazines al-Hilal (The Crescent) and al-Thuraya (The Star). In
1906, she established her own magazine in Cairo called Fatat al-Sharq
(Girl of the East). It was one of the first women's periodicals in the Arab
world, and it inspired Mary Ajamy to set up al-Arus (The Bride) in
Damascus in 1910. She
continued to publish Fatat al-Sharq until 1939.
In 1909, Hashem sent a long letter to the
Ottoman Parliament, outlining her vision for female education in the Middle
East and demanding a curriculum change from the new Sultan Mehmed V Reshad. Specifically, she
demanded more attention and funds for girls' schools in Syria and Lebanon. She
also taught at Egyptian University, being the first woman to do so, in 1911. Inspired by the
cultural life of Cairo, her talents flourished. She wrote many poems that were
collected by the Lebanese journalist Nicolas al-Baz and published in a book on
women's literature in 1919.
Hashem served as editor-in-chief of Fatat
al-Sharq and employed a large number of young girls as freelancers,
editors, and typesetters at her office in Cairo. She would distribute the
magazine for free to girls' schools in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon to encourage
girls to read and write poetry, articles, and editorials. Hashem's magazine
became very popular among women left behind in their homes during World War I
when the region's men were conscripted into the Ottoman Army. She wrote against
the war and encouraged the widows of dead soldiers, and the wives and daughters
of men serving in the Ottoman Army, to work and provide for their own
In October 1918, the Ottoman Empire was
defeated and an Arab government was established in Damascus. Hashem supported
King Faysal I, the new ruler of Syria, who declared himself an advocate of
women's rights. In turn, Faysal appointed her inspector of education at the
Ministry of Education, working with the minister and scholar, Sati al-Husari.
Hashim was the first woman to hold a government post in Syria, dominated at the time by an
all-men bureaucracy. Along with other women's right activists like Nazeq
al-Abed, Ibtihaj Qaddura, and Salma Sayyigh, Hashem lobbied heavily for a law
granting women their suffrage rights.
In 1921, one year after the French occupied
Syria, Labiba Hashem moved to Latin America where she founded another
newspaper, Sharq wa Gharb (East and West), in Chile. Among her most
widely acclaimed books was Hasanat al-Hubb (Merits of Love) in 1898 and,
Qalb Rajul (A Man's Heart), published in 1904.