Women’s fight for suffrage started early in the 20th century in Ottoman Empire – then ruled by a monarchy – but they faced many other challenges after the country switched to a parliamentary system as they failed to have suffrage added to the new constitution in 1924.

Before Atatürk´s reforms, it is known that, peasant women were working, helping their family in farming; while the women who lived in the cities were not permitted to work. In some areas, women were allowed to earn a living, on condition that their work did not involve association with men. They could work in the family businesses, such as helping to run a bakery or weaving carpets.

The first movement to gain social and educational rights for women started right after the Ottoman reformation movement of “Gulhane Hatt-i Humayunu” (Tanzimat Fermani) in 1839. The emancipation of women was advocated by a handful of intellectuals.

After the establishment of the Republic in 1923, the women were gradually granted the right to vote and to be elected, first to vote in municipal elections and to stand for municipal council elections and finally in 1934, to vote and be nominated for seats in Parliament.

In Parliament in 1935, 4.5 percent of lawmakers were women. This number increased in the following decades, but it stayed below 10 percent until the 2011 elections.

It should be noted that, Ataturk stressed the importance of “western/modern” ideas of free-market economies and human rights; and, he strongly defended girls’ education, gender equality and women’s rights. As said, Turkish women were given right to vote in 1934, only 14 years after the USA (1920) and several decades earlier than Switzerland (1971).

Today, there are 104 women among the 600 lawmakers: 17.4 percent of lawmakers in the Turkish Grand National Assembly.


  • For international woman suffrage timeline please visit this web page


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