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Fatima Aliye Hanim is described by some historians as the first female Muslim novelist of the Ottoman Empire. She was highly concerned with the rights of women and wrote for the magazine ‘Hanimlara Mahsus Gazete’ (Newspaper for Women) without reportedly giving up her conservative views. She also founded the Society for Supporting Ottoman Women (Nisvan-ı Osmaniye İmdat Cemiyeti) in 1897.
In her 1896 book Nisvan-ı İslam ("Women of Islam"), she aimed to shed light on the experiences of Muslim women and address criticisms leveled at them or misconceptions about Muslim women in Europe and beyond. She developed her ideas for women’s rights within an Islamic framework and spoke up against Ataturk’s ‘modernising’ reforms with regard to women. At the same time she also spoke out against practices such as polygamy.
The Istanbul Modern Museum organised an exhibition named after her first work ‘Hayal ve Hakikat’ in September 2011. This exhibition showcased the works of 72 Turkish women artists from different generations and reflected how they transformed their dreams into reality.
While Fatima Aliye has largely been overlooked in Turkish history, she was selected to be the first woman to appear on Turkish bank notes in 2009. To read about why this was deemed controversial see our Forgotten Heritage archive.
Adapted from the Istanbul Museum of Women, with their kind permission.