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Commemorating International Woman's Day
Famous Femmes of Modern Turkish History

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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Pioneering Turkish Women
who led the way...
Turkish Women Pioneers
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Thanks to Gözcü Gazetesi -- 6 March 2007

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Pioneering Women in Turkish History
Who Led the Way

These days, Turkish women cut the mustard in most any field of endeavor you chose to name.

In the more 'serious' occupations there are women doctors, lawyers, and female judges too. In the business arena, women run their own and other peoples companies -- and lead high-powered business organizations.

In the news media, influential female journalists like Ayse Arman routinely outshine their male counterparts. In politics, Tansu Çiller was Turkey's first female Prime Minister -- and although there hasn't been another female PM so far, there are plenty of female members of parliament currently -- and local women political leaders abound (across a wide range of posts, including female vali (provincial governor), kaymakam (district governor), and muhtar (elected head of village or neighborhood in a town/city).

There are also world class female sports figures (like middle distance runner Süreyya Ayhan) -- and, of course, in the entertainment sector, female Turkish performers (such as Hülya Avşar -- see pic above left) wow audiences worldwide.

But, who were the female Turkish pioneers who laid the groundwork for today's Turkish woman? Who were the first ones of the female gender in history to break the all-male barriers in Turkey?

In a small tribute to International Women's Day 2007, we'd like to name just a few...

  • First female doctor -- Safiye Ali: Treated war-wounded in the Turkish War of Independence, the Balkan Wars (of 1912/13), and in WW I.

  • 1920 -- Süreyya Ağaoğlu: First female to enroll in Law School -- at Istanbul University. As a full-fledged lawyer, Süreyya Hanım, defended her own father (law professor Ahmet Ağaoğlu) at a famous trial on Yassıada island in the Sea of Marmara.

  • 1921 -- Seven (unnamed) female students enrolled in Medical School.

  • June 1923 -- Nezihe Muhittin: Established the first women's political party (Kadınlar Halk Fırkasıi -- The People's Party for Women). The Voting Rights bill of 1909 had given Turkish women the right to vote, but it took 14 years before a woman of Nezihe Hanım's courage came on the scene to galvanize a large block of women voters -- and make them a force to be reckoned with.

  • 1924 -- Ferdane Bozdoğan Erbek: First Female awarded a Doctorate of Dentistry.

  • 1930 - First (unnamed) female judges 'take the bench' in Turkish Courts across the country.

  • 1933 -- Gül Esin: the first female muhtar. She garnered about 500 votes in the village of Karpuzlu (near Aydın) to win the elected post.

  • 1936 -- Sabiha Gökçen: first female warplane pilot -- not just in Turkey... in the World. A protégé of Ataturk, Sabiha Hanım graduated from War-Aviation Flying School in Eskisehir.

  • 1950 -- Müfide İlhan: first female Belediye Başkan (Big City Mayor) elected to office in Mersin.

  • 1957 -- Doctor Sema Aran: First female Army Officer. First Lieutenant Aran was commissioned just after to the Korean War.

  • 1958 -- Leman Altınçekiç: First accredited female Aircraft Carrier pilot in the world. Preceded Lieutenant Kara Spears Hultgreen (first female American Aircraft pilot) by almost 40 years.

  • 1971 -- Prof. Dr. Türkan Akyol: First woman Minister in the Turkish government (who later became the first woman President of a Turkish university).

  • 1982 -- Filiz Dinçmen: First Turkish female Ambassador to a foreign county (Holland).

  • 1991 -- Lale Aytaman: First female Governor of a Turkish regional province (Muğla).

  • 1993 -- Tansu Çiller: First female Prime Minister (from the DYP party).

  • 1996 -- First (unnamed) female Naval Officers graduate from Turkish Naval War School.

  • 2005 -- Tülay Tuğcu: First Anayasa Mahkemesi Başbakan (Chief Justice of the Constitutional Supreme Court).

  • 2007 -- Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ: First female President of the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD -- which is broadly akin to the US Chamber of Commerce).

    And that's just to name a few...

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