Powerful Role Of Ottoman Women History Essay

October 17, 2017 History

The word Harem, for the Europeans, constituted a topographic point of magnificence and deluxe show of alien adult females who were entirely at that place to delight the Sultan. This was a broad misconception that didnt alteration because the hareem was a topographic point that was forbidden for foreigners and was capable to false word pictures of it instead than factual 1s. The word Harem means ‘forbidden ‘ , ‘unlawful ‘ or ‘protected ‘ . It was meant as an enclosed quarters where female members of the household were segregated and kept in privacy. It was meant to be a system of solidarity and patriarchal protection.

In my paper I would discourse about how the adult females in the Ottoman period particularly in the Imperial hareem had more power than really credited for. I cite certain adult females and how they used their power to pull strings or exert it to act upon the political and societal kingdom of their society to their advantage.

Books that have the Primary Sources I will be utilizing are:

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

& A ; gt ; ‘Ottoman adult females ‘myth and world ‘ the writer challenges the Oriental ‘s position of the Ottoman adult females particularly in the ‘Harem ‘ ‘ she explains the significance of it that it ‘s a infinite to bask religious and domestic holiness hence depriving off the sexual intension attached with this word.

& A ; gt ; ‘Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History ‘ where true histories of tribunal instances and through tribunal certification we were able to see how adult females in different sectors of the community utilized their power and how the Torahs had alteration through clip.

& A ; gt ; ‘The Imperial Harem ‘ ‘ Peirce examines the beginnings of royal adult females ‘s power through family webs in the Harem. Its elaborate analysis of this establishment gives us an in-depth apprehension of the much misunderstood word Harem and its existent power in the Ottoman Empire.

The construct of Harem is more of a privilege of privateness and protection for the adult females, be it at place or at the castle. Inside the Harem we see hierarchy of authorization where its power is defined rather limpidly if it were a large family. Privacy of the adult females within the Harem created a misconception that they were unable to act upon outside its boundaries. However, this played an of import facet in the Empire. The elites of the imperium were involved in both societal and political kingdom within private infinite. Therefore it is indispensable to observe that in this context, an person ‘s privacy exemplifies their higher position in the society. This was the primary difference between adult females of upper and lower category.

Harem as being a cardinal sphere of political relations

The hareem of an Ottoman family became an sphere for household political relations to play out instead than sex being the chief force behind it. Thus sex for the Ottoman Sultan had imperative political intensions and was non wholly for pleasance. The alone thing about Ottoman tradition was that they relied both on slave courtesan and legal matrimony for reproducing inheritor to the throne. Why? Because married womans normally were suspected of holding vested involvements in their ain household ‘s personal businesss and this lead to interference with the truenesss towards their hubby. ‘

The powers of the harem adult females were exercised through their functions within the household:

Structure of the Harem:

At the vertex of the Harem stood the Valide Sultan ( Sultan ‘s female parent ) whose authorization extended over the family. The Imperial hareem ( a.k.a Seraglio hareem ) contained the combined families of the Valide Sultan ( Queen Mother ) , the Sultan ‘s front-runners ( hasekis ) , and the remainder of his courtesans. It besides contained the full Sultanas ‘ ( girls of the Sultan ) families. Many of the harem adult females would ne’er see the Sultan and became the retainers necessary for the day-to-day operation of the hareem. 1 ‘

As we see during the reign of Suleyman, haseki additions political prestigiousness and power to lift to place of the Valide Sultan. Four most outstanding Valide Sultan of that period have been ‘ Hurrem, Nurbanu, Safiye and Kosem who had themselves been haseki. We see a political strain between haseki and the Valide Sultan as the Valide Sultan held the most powerful place a adult female could hold.

In fact an anecdote related by Fanny Davis illustrates the insisting of Circassian female parents selling their girls into bondage in the Harem ‘Mothers were incensed at what they felt were efforts to maintain their girls from acquiring to Istanbul and progressing themselves. Each had a vision of her girl come ining the saray [ castle ] and going Valdie Sultan’2

Take for illustration Hurrem Sultan -haseki ( Roxana in the West ) who was thought to hold bewitched Sultan Suleyman. She learned Ottoman Turkish and demonstrated her accomplishment through poesy. Hurrem Sultan is said to hold been the last slave adult female lawfully married to a grand Turk it was most likely due to the power she wielded over him. ‘

An extract that illustrates Hurrem ‘s manipulative nature is related by embassador Bragadin ‘The grand Turk was given by sanjak bey [ provincial governor ] two beautiful Russian maidens, one for his female parent and one for him. When they arrived in the castle, his 2nd married woman [ Hurrem ] , who he esteems at present, became highly unhappy and flung herself to the land crying. The female parent who had given her maiden to the grand Turk, was sorry about what she had done, took her back, and sent her to a sanjak bey as married woman, and the dultan agreed to direct his to another sanjak bey, because his married woman would hold perished from sorrow if these maidens- or even one of them- had remained in the palace’3

Future on we see the ulterior Ottoman swayers who end up passing more clip with adult females than taking ground forcess into conflict suggest that the power of adult females in the castle grew enormously. The Valide Sultan ‘become keepers of autonomous power, trained their boies in its usage, and exercised it straight as trustees when necessary. Through pull offing the big families of their boies they had acquired the needed administrative accomplishments. These royal adult females headed domestic cabals, negotiated pacts with foreign powers, acted as trustees for their boies, and engaged in the backing of thearts and charity. ‘4

Lower Class adult females

The Lower category adult females were moderately free to travel approximately in populace without even have oning a head covering. As they could non afford to purchase slave misss they had the chance to gain their life on their ain. They could even have stores such as a bakeshop or a store that sold fabrics. Womans could besides gain their life through weaving or embellishment every bit good

Lady Mary Montague felt that the Turkish adult females whomever she met were freer than the adult females in England. Therefore we see that the Ottoman adult females enjoyed a great trade of autonomy and were privileged in fiscal personal businesss and were really much in control of their lives.

Slave misss were trained in the luxuriant Ottoman etiquette and appropriate decorousness needed to be practiced in the Harem. They were taught the art of penmanship and embellishment and if she had a modicum of musical endowment in her, it was cultivated and perfected. Some of them besides received the same kind of instruction as the household members in the Harem ‘because of their beauty, appeal and cultivated behaviour

Ottoman royal adult females as frequenters

The grand Turk ‘s female parent would prosecute in philanthropic plants and being backing of public plants such as edifice great mosque composites, infirmaries, libraries and other gifts go forthing her grade on the metropoliss and towns. Besides we find that through charity comfortable adult females helped other adult females who were household members or less fortunate adult females such as paupers, orphans or cocottes. This manner they were able to develop webs and pull off an country of the community for their ain benefit. The beginning of income for these immense outgos came from income revenue enhancement and land grants.

For illustration: here is an infusion of the gift title

‘just one among 14 trusts set up by Queen Mother Bezm-i-Alem ( d. 1852 ) ‘

* One garden and nine stores in Istanbul

* 25,240 olive trees in Edremid and Kemer Edrimid

* An island called Hursidler near Rhodes

* One hayfield, two farms and forth three Fieldss in Istanbul ” 5


Ottoman adult females enjoyed a certain extent of engagement in the socio-economic life in the community. Most of the adult females took advantage of the handiness to the Imperial Council to petition for their rights. For most of them, heritage of belongings, dowery and mehr were of import agencies to gain income. They besides invested hard currency in trade, money-lending or purchasing /selling of belongings showcasing their economic independency. We besides see that the adult females of good societal standing besides contributed to public public assistance through Acts of the Apostless of gifts, liberating slaves and other signifiers of charity.

* AWQAF – Inheritance of Property ‘

‘In eighteenth-century Cairo, for illustration, adult females founded one one-fourth of the 496 new’awq? f’in the metropolis by change overing many sorts of belongings they owned ‘ stores, warehouses, flats, java houses, public baths, and so forth ‘ into’awq? degree Fahrenheit ‘ ( Fay 1997, 34’5 ) . In nineteenth-century Aleppo, some 30 to 40 per centum of the new’awq? f’were founded by adult females ( Meriwether 1997, 132’3 ) . Clearly, the constitution of these’awq? f’reflected deep female engagement in the urban existent estate market every bit good as the ability of adult females to dispose of their belongings as they wished. ‘6

* Requests and Money loaning ‘

Beginnings such as Sikayet Defterleri registries provide information of in-between income adult females. For illustration: ‘in a request filed by Ayse dated March 1675, she claimed that she had lent 800 piaster to another adult female, who had failed to pay it back upon her petition ( Majer 1984, fol. 112a, no. 1 ) ‘7

* Marriage Contracts

We see that some adult females belonging to the merchandiser household used clauses in matrimony contracts to curtail the motion of their hubbies. We see this with Abu Taqiyya ‘s household where Juwariyya and Umm al- Hana where they curtailed their hubby ‘s any chances of kiping with person else.8

This illustrates how actively engaged adult females were in their community and were rather cognizant of their legal rights and the protection webs provided.


Therefore I conclude that The Ottoman Women were capable of being independent and exerting power both in the societal and the private domains of their life. Both the lower and the upper category adult females took chances of the legal processs and used them to their advantage. The Imperial Harem was more than topographic point occupied by animal adult females who was portrayed or frequently depicted as titillating and laden. It was a topographic point where household political relations took its tallness and was maneuvered by the adult females in the Harem no affair what their place was in the hierarchy.


I'm Amanda

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out