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The Ottoman Women's Movement

Early feminists

"Pay attention to every corner of the world, we are the eve of a revolution. Be assured, this revolution is not going to be bloody and savage like a man's revolution. On the contrary, it will be pleasant and relatively quiet, but definitely productive. You must believe this, ladies!"

(Fatma Nesibe, Istanbul 1911)

In late 19th-century Ottoman society a small circle of educated women started to become involved in public debates about women's rights. Women graduating from the first secondary schools for girls or educated by private tutors fought for greater access to education. Arguments were presented in utilitarian terms: since the family was the foundation of the country, and the mother the foundation of the family, her intellectual development was key to the development of the country.

Women's journals emerged to provide a public forum for the discussion of women's issues. In Terakki-i Muhadderat (Progress of Muslim Women, 1869-1870), writers discussed female education, polygamy and problems of discrimination. Other journals followed: Vakit yahud Murebbi-i Muhadderat (Time or the Training of Muslim Women, 1875), Ayna (Mirror, 1875

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