Many women have played an important role in Islamic renewal as advocates and activists within Islamist movements and parties. Women's participation is of particular interest, given the reputation of these groups as insufficiently supportive of women's rights. The specific influences and experiences that lead women to approach their own empowerment through Islam and to reform Islamist movements from within have been neglected. This article investigates some of the important influences on two prominent female Islamists: Heba Raouf Ezzat, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University, and Nadia Yassine, founder and head of the women's branch of the Moroccan movement Justice and Spirituality (JSA). First and foremost, it overviews the circumstances in which prominent women in Egypt and Morocco have asserted themselves in the past century, highlighting the consistent importance of paternal influence and the expansion of access to education, as well as the evolving role of religion and religious discourse in arguments for women's rights. This article discusses the role of paternal influence and schooling as agents of political socialization, pointing out that scholars have underestimated the important role that fathers play in strongly patriarchal societies and the ability of schools in former colonies to produce anti colonial and nationalist political sentiments. It then turns to Ezzat and Yassine themselves, presenting in detail the influence their fathers and foreign schools had on their political socialization. Both fathers held progressive views on women's education, but they differed in their specific political views, such as their attitude towards Islamism, and the extent to which they sought to transfer their political views to their daughters. This article ends by discussing the role of foreign education in Ezzat's and Yassine's socialization and identity construction, emphasizing the importance of encounters with racist and condescending attitudes as a contributing factor to women's search for Islamic alternatives.