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21 ALİYE, Fatma (1862–1936) Prominent Turkish woman writer and philosopher of the Ottoman era; advocate of (Muslim) women’s rights; founder of the Cemiyet-i İmdadiye (Charity Society, 1897–?). Fatma Aliye was born on 26 October 1862 into a mansion in Istanbul. Her father, Ahmet Cevdet Pasha (1822–1895), was an influential bureaucrat of the Ottoman State, a lawyer and a historian. Her mother was Adviye Rabia Hanım. Fatma had a brother, Ali Sedat, and a sister, Emine Semiye (1864–1944), also a prominent figure in her time, though less so than Fatma. A Member of the Ottoman Parliament , Fatma Aliye’s father was appointed Governor of Egypt when Fatma was three years old and the family spent the years 1866 to 1868 in Aleppo. When she was thirteen, her father was appointed to another governorship and for six months the family resided in Janina (in the western Ottoman Empire; today Ioannina , Greece). Fatma Aliye’s early years as the daughter of a traditional Ottoman bureaucrat in the post-Tanzimat period were a mixture of mansion life and the new cultural milieu that accompanied ‘Westernization’ (i.e. political reconstruction through the adoption of ‘Western’ public and legal institutions). Fatma received no formal schooling, since at that time there were no high schools or colleges open to women, but was privately tutored at home until the age of thirteen; her father taught her Arabic, history and philosophy and she also took other private lessons. In 1875, her father became the Minister of Education. Fatma Aliye, who had now come of age, was not permitted to take lessons with male teachers and ordered to stay away from the selamlık (traditionally the part of the house reserved for men) and move into the harem (the part reserved for women). In 1878, the family spent nine months in Damascus due to her father’s new position. The following year, at the age of seventeen, Fatma Aliye was married upon her father’s wishes to Captain Mehmet Faik Bey (died 1928), one of the aide-de-camps of Sultan Abdülhamid. It was not a marriage based on love; Aliye’s husband was intellectually far less qualified than she and tried to keep her away from intellectual pursuits—at least for a while. Fatma Aliye gave birth to four girls: Hatice Faik Topuz Muhtar (born 1880); Ayşe Faik 22 Topuz (1884–1967); Nimet Faik Topuz Selen (1900–1972) and Zübeyde İsmet Faik Topuz (born 1901). In 1885, her husband was posted to the central Anatolian province of Konya for a period of eleven months and Fatma Aliye, who had remained in Istanbul with her children, had the opportunity to return to intellectual pursuits, particularly writing. Later, her husband’s negative attitude to her intellectual life would change and he would even encourage her to publish. The fact that the Ottoman Empire was ruled by the Shari’a (Islamic law) had an impact not only on religious, but also cultural life. The dominant ideology of the period aimed at a synthesis between Islam and ‘the West’ and the resulting ‘civilizationalism ’ found its way into Fatma Aliye’s views on women and women’s rights. She placed primary importance on the family and regarded women as the driving force of ‘civilization’ via their roles as mothers, emphasizing the need for women’s education, raising the problem of women’s freedom and responsibilities in ‘the family’ and in ‘society,’ and demanding rights for women within these prescribed boundaries. Some of her arguments, calling for sexual equality as well as the preservation of gender differences , reflected widespread currents of nineteenth-century European feminist thought. Her first translation from French, of George Ohnet’s novel Volonté (Meram in Turkish ), was published in 1889. She did not use her own name for the reason that it was then considered inappropriate for a woman to publish and write. In Meram, the translator ’s name appeared as “a Lady,” but among intellectual circles it was considered improbable that a woman could have really completed such an impressive translation. For a long time after, Fatma Aliye employed the pseudonym Mütercime-i Meram (the [female] translator of Volonté), but she published her novel Muhazarat (Useful information , 1892) under her real name. Muhazarat, which came out in a second edition in 1908, was the first novel by a woman in the Ottoman Empire. After its publication, Fatma Aliye’s name began appearing in newspapers and magazines. For thirteen years...


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