Ottoman Women During the Advent of Western Feminism

The Muslim Debate Initiative

by Zara Huda Faris

“As to women, as many, if not more than men, are to be seen in the streets [i.e. going about their daily activities, etc] […] I think I never saw a country where women may enjoy so much liberty, and free from all reproach, as in Turkey […] The Turks in their conduct towards our sex are an example to all other nations; […] and I repeat it, sir, I think no women have so much liberty, safe from apprehension, as the Turkish – and I think them in their manner of living, capable of being the happiest creatures breathing.”

– Lady Elizabeth Craven, A Journey Through the Crimea to Constantinople, 1789[i]

Lady Elizabeth Craven, 18th century travel writer, playwright and author, made these observations about the women of the Ottoman Caliphate (an Islamic state) in 1789, before the advent of feminism in Europe…

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