Suffragettes from Turkey

Prof. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, a Biblical scholar and Oxford Professor, wrote an account of the Bab’s life in 1914 that included the story of Tahirih in “The Reconciliation of races and religions.”

Possibly as a result of his study, he became a Baha’i. He wrote in his chapter on Tahirih that she had an exalted position:

“Indeed, the only difference in human beings is that some realize more, and some less, or even not at all, the fact of the divine spark in their composition. Ḳurratu'l 'Ayn certainly did realize her divinity.”

According to a biographer, Cheyne:

“…was in intimate relations with the founder of the Bahaist Movement and with his son. He held that peace among nations could be secured only through religious union. Each of the great religions of the present day, he thought, might learn from the others, and a common faith would make all men brothers.”

In his chapter he recounted an interesting episode about suffragettes from Turkey who were banished to Akka:

“The poetess (i.e. Tahirih) was a true Bahaite. More than this; the harvest sown in Islamic lands by Ḳurratu'l 'Ayn is now beginning to appear. … forty Turkish suffragettes are being deported from Constantinople to Akka (so long the prison of Baha-'ullah): '"During the last few years suffrage ideas have been spreading quietly behind in the harems. … the men of Constantinople have thought it necessary to resort to drastic measures. Suffrage clubs have been organized, … Then one day the members of these clubs—four hundred of them—cast away their veils.These four hundred liberty-loving women were divided into several groups. One group composed of forty have been exiled to Akka, and will arrive in a few days. (italics added here)…"”

In 1913, there was a great rise in activism for the advancement of women in Turkey. During the late Ottoman period/early 1900s, there was a proliferation of associations to defend the rights of women, to open hospitals and schools, to assert the rights of women without disregarding traditional values, to participate in working life and begin businesses for women, to found a university for women, to advocate for women’s suffrage, and to publish women’s periodicals which called for a Constitutional form of government. At the core of these associations were two ideas: the importance of educating women and the assertion and defense of the rights of women within the family and in public life.

Read Cheyne's The Reconciliation of Races and Religions HERE

The Women's movement in Turkey