restricted access MEVLAN CİVELEK, Ulviye (1893–1964)
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336 MEVLAN CİVELEK, Ulviye (1893–1964) Turkish journalist and activist; founder (1913) of the Müdafaa-i Hukuk-i Nisvan Cemiyeti (Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights) and publisher of the journal Kadınlar Dünyası (Women’s world, 1913–1921). Ulviye Mevlan was a pioneering feminist in Ottoman society of the early 1900s, a time when social and political structures were undergoing important changes. Born in 1893, in Göreme, she was brought to the harem of the Ottoman Palace at the age of six where, like all the new incoming girls, she received her first education. Her family was Circassian, exiled from Caucasia by the Russians. Her father, Mahmut Yediç, was a farmer; her mother’s name was Safiye Hanım. At the age of thirteen Ulviye, in compliance with the rules of the Palace, was given in marriage to an elderly man, Hulisi Bey, but was widowed soon after. (Hulisi Bey was a foster brother of the Sultan; his mother was the wet-nurse of the Sultan Abdülhamid II.) She married again, this time to Rıfat Mevlan (1869–1930), a well-known journalist. Her own career as a journalist began prior to her second marriage. By the age of twenty, she was running a women’s magazine, Kadınlar Dünyası (Women’s world); in 1913, she founded an association, the Müdafaa-i Hukuk-i Nisvan Cemiyeti (Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights). In the first few issues of Kadınlar Dünyası, her name—Nuriye Ulviye—appeared as the owner of the magazine; later, she took the name Mevlan, her husband’s surname. After her husband was exiled for his opposition to Atatürk (the founder of the Turkish Republic), she divorced him (in 1923). In 1931, she married Ali Civelek (1904–1985), who had come to Istanbul from Antakya (a city in southern Turkey) to study medicine. He was a boarder in her house and ten years her junior. Although his family did not approve of this marriage, it was a happy one. Ulviye Mevlan Civelek did not have a child of her own but adopted a poor orphan named Lütfiye. From 4 April 1913 to 1921, with some interruptions, Ulviye Mevlan published Kadınlar Dünyası. The first hundred issues came out daily, afterwards weekly. Up against enormous difficulties and at great personal cost, Mevlan worked to mobilize women and improve their position in society. She demanded rights for women in the 337 family, in social life and at work, and considered political rights a necessary complement to these social rights. Although the editorial column of the magazine was anonymously signed “Kadınlar Dünyası,” her singular style of writing is recognizable. Later, she signed the column with her own name, under the heading “Düşünüyorum” (I am thinking). Of the approximately forty women’s magazines that emerged around the end of the nineteenth century, accompanying a proliferation of women’s associations, Kadınlar Dünyası was the only women’s magazine to introduce an explicitly feminist agenda and rhetoric to the Ottoman press. Various magazines and associations—philanthropic, cultural , national, feminist (in the case of Kadınlar Dünyası), political (e.g. women’s branches of political parties) and educational (offering opportunities for employment)— sought to enlighten and mobilize Ottoman women in a number of ways. Kadınlar Dünyas ı, which declared itself feminist and dedicated to helping women acquire the selfconfidence to articulate their demands, attracted women from different sectors of Ottoman society. It was the first magazine to publish a photograph of a Muslim woman and the first owned by a woman, and whose writers, press workers and readers were all women. The journal advocated a principle of ‘women writers only,’ which it justified in the following way: “Until our legal equality is acknowledged in general law, until women and men are deemed equal in every respect, Kadınlar Dünyası will not open its pages to men. Moreover, it would be more beneficial for men who believe in the exaltation of womanhood to publish their articles in those magazines and newspapers which are not interested in women’s issues” [Kadınlar Dünyası, no. 9 (12 April 1913): 3]. Kadınlar Dünyası was an important feminist forum in which established sex and gender norms could be questioned. It also raised issues on the agenda of the Müdafaai Hukuk-i Nisvan (Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights...