How Muslim Women Inspired Early Western Feminists

It is the fashion in Europe to pity the women of the East; but it is ignorance of their real position alone which can engender so misplaced an exhibition of sentiment.

–Julia Pardoe, British traveler to the Ottoman Empire, 1838

I wrote about how 18th and 19th century Western feminists were partly inspired by the, at that time, much greater social and legal rights of Ottoman women, and how their much more comfortable clothes became a symbol of radicalism. You can read it at Humanities Magazine.

When I first began pulling together and rewriting my late mother’s book manuscript for publication (Ottoman Dress and Design in the West: A Visual History of Cultural Exchange) She mentioned how early Western feminists admired the clothing and freedoms of Turkish Ottoman women and adopted it as an aspirational symbol.  I did some more research into that, and this article is the result.

I was also intrigued by the connection to the reform dress promoted by Amelia Bloomer and her friends in the 19th century United States, and that research has sent me deep into a new project! More about that in days to come…




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