Women War and Work in the Ottoman Empire:Society for the Employment of Ottoman Muslim Women 19161923
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World War I deeply altered the lives of Muslim Ottoman women. The Ottoman Army consisted only of Muslim men and war caused the death of one and a half million Muslim Ottoman men. The heavy losses of the Ottoman army meant that every day more and more dependants lost their breadwinners. When the breadwinner had gone to war, was wounded or died at the front; the wives, daughters, sisters and mothers they had left behind were faced with two options: to find work and make a living, or to starve to death…
On 14 August 1916, the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihâd ve Terakkî Cemiyeti), the ruling party of the Ottoman Empire, established a new society under the leadership of one of its leading figures: Vice-Commander and Minister of War, Enver Paşa. The Society for the Employment of Ottoman Muslim Women (Kadınları Çalıştırma Cemiyet-i İslâmiyesi) was a Unionist organization created to find employment for Muslim Ottoman women who were in urgent economic need. Within a matter of months, it received more than 14,000 applications and was soon employing 8,194
destitute Ottoman women in its braches and in the related state and military institutions. In time, it would offer jobs to an aggregate number of 20,000 women workers, and became the leading employer of Muslim Ottoman women in the Ottoman Empire. This comprehensive work constitutes both a case study of Muslim Ottoman women during World War I, and a detailed analysis of the foundation, organization and activities of the Society for the Employment of Ottoman Muslim Women, created to find employment for them.