This paper begins with an examination of the recent debate between active women's groups in Egypt who wanted to change the format of the marriage contract and the state functionaries who had claimed to better serve women's rights in the change of personal status laws. Next, it uses the work of Carole Pateman on the "sexual contract" in the West and its impact on the development of civil society to look back on the important Egyptian debate which took place in the 1890s and defined women's rights in modern society. The paper recovers the contributions made by 'A'isha Taymur and Zaynab Fawwaz to this discussion. It also examines shaykh Abdallah al-Fayumi's polemical response to Taymur and the views of the women's journals on the subject. It also shows how Qasim Amin borrowed heavily from these women in the development of a hegemonic fraternal discourse on women's rights that survives until today.