Ethel Stefana Drower (1879–1972)

Ethel Stefana Drower (née Stevens) began her career as a novelist, travel writer and freelance journalist. Between 1909 and 1927 she published thirteen novels; many of them, like these, were based in the Middle East in which she developed a scholarly interest and expertise. Though untrained as a scholar, she learned Arabic while stationed with her husband in Iraq, and would later teach herself Aramaic as well. While in Iraq, Drower began to develop what would become a lifelong fascination with the Mandaeans, the only surviving gnostic group from antiquity. Drower worked closely with the Mandaeans, earning their trust to the degree that some members made copies for her of manuscripts which were usually reserved for study and reading by their own priests. These copies of scrolls formed the basis of a large number of important publications, many of which remain the standard texts to this day, and to the recognition of Drower as a pioneering expert in Mandaean language, history, religion and culture.