Women in Ottoman Legal Sources

The field of the history of Ottoman women has emerged in a rather late and gradual fashion. The studies on the experiences of women in the Ottoman period started in the late 1970s and gained a modest momentum in the early 1980s. The study of women and gender among the scholars of the Ottoman Empire began to assume a central place in the mid-1980s. This article is an attempt to review the literature on Ottoman women based on the legal sources and it largely covers the literature produced in English. To achieve this objective, the article considers the early developments in the history of Ottoman women together with the subsequent developments in the 1980s. It proceeds with the increasing literature appeared in the 1990s, which are classified under several subtitles: the studies dealing with the issues related to the family law, women who seek justice, women and waqf relations, non-Muslim women, family history, works based on estate records, women's use of space and the recent developments focusing on the mutual relations between women and law. These studies aim to unveil the different aspects of the Ottoman women's lives, to reflect their positions in family and in society by considering the gender relations and to uncover the women's relation to law. In the process, they bring into light the wide range of action that was available to women, despite the inherited gender system that prescribed women's subordination to men. In the conclusion part, the problematic and the shortcomings of studies focusing on the history of Ottoman women are discussed.


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