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356 MUHİTTİN, Nezihe (1889–1958) Turkish writer and activist in the early Republican period; founder (1923) of Kadınlar Halk Fırkası (Women’s People’s Party); publisher of the journals Kadın Yolu (Women’s way) (1925) and Türk Kadın Yolu (Turkish women’s way) (1925–1927). Nezihe Muhittin was born in 1889 in Istanbul. Her mother was Zehra Hanım (the daughter of Ali Şevket Pasha; the name of Zehra Hanım’s mother is unknown ). Nezihe’s father, Muhittin Bey, was a state prosecutor. Nezihe Muhittin attended the French Missionary School and her early ambition was to become a teacher. Even though she was not a graduate of the Öğretmen Okulu (Teacher Training College), she appealed to the Ministry of Education, succeeded in passing the entrance exam and began teaching the natural sciences at a secondary school for girls in Istanbul. In 1909, she wrote her first novel, Şebab-i Tebah (Lost youth), under the name Nezihe Muhlis (Muhlis being her first husband’s name). She was appointed to the Teacher Training College as a teacher at the age of twenty. She wrote proposals for the reform of primary and secondary schools and sent them to the Ministry of Education. She also worked as a nurse in the First Aid Hospital of the governing İttihat Terakki Partisi (Union and Progress Party) in Istanbul. Nezihe Muhittin married twice. Her first marriage with Muhlis Ethem (about which no specific data exists) was short-lived. Later, she married an official of the Istanbul Municipality, Memduh Tepedelengil. The couple had a son named Malik. She never used her husband’s surname, preferring to use that of her father’s. In 1913, Nezihe Muhittin founded the Osmanlı-Türk Hanımları Esirgeme Derneği (Association for the Protection of Ottoman-Turkish Women), which cared for orphans and women without means of material support. She was also active in the Donanma Cemiyeti (Association of Support to the Navy) and in the Müdafaa-i Milliye Hanımlar Heyeti (Women’s Committee for the Defence of the Nation). These were basically nationalist and patriotic associations for the defence of the country at war. Their rhetoric stressed the need to rise against foreign invasion and to defend independence. Muhittin’s main contribution as a women’s activist was her founding of a political party to fight for the (political) rights of women, which she did immediately after the 357 Greek–Turkish War (1919–1923). The Kadınlar Halk Fırkası (Women’s People’s Party), of which Muhittin was elected President, was founded on 16 June 1923—prior to the foundation of the Cumhuriyet Halk Fırkası (Republican People’s Party) that was to govern the country for the entire single-party era (1930–1945). The Kadınlar Halk Fırkası was dedicated to the promotion of women in social, economic and political life, and to obtaining equal rights for women (including women’s right to serve in the military). Yet it also emphasized the importance of women’s traditional duties in the family as mothers. Official authorization of the Kadınlar Halk Fırkası was refused on the grounds that women did not yet have political rights and members were advised to set up a women’s association, suggesting the extent to which the perimeters for the granting of social and political rights for women were largely set by men as founders of Republican Turkey. The Kadınlar Halk Fırkası became an association: the Türk Kadınlar Birliği (Turkish Women’s Association), but its founding principles were in fact similar to the proposed program of the political party. In the journals that she founded—namely Kadın Yolu (Women’s way, 1925) and Türk Kadın Yolu (Turkish women’s way, 1925–1927)—Nezihe Muhittin worked to promote women’s social status and the right to vote. Nezihe Muhittin’s position accorded with contemporary ‘Western’ trends in equal rights feminism in that it demanded full citizenship for women. The demand for political rights was raised again in the general meeting of the Türk Kadınlar Birliği convened in February 1927 in Istanbul, and a consensus was reached on the immediate need to wage a struggle for women’s enfranchisement in the coming municipal elections . Although the Türk Kadınlar Birliği’s demand for women’s voting rights was not acknowledged by the Turkish Parliament, Muhittin continued to promote suffrage as a key...


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