Reforms and Social Changes / Women

In 19th-century Europe, women fought hard to gain the right to receive an education, to work and to vote. Women’s right to use public spaces triggered impassioned debate in Europe and in the Arab and Ottoman world, particularly in Egypt, where reformers such as Rifa‘a Rafi’ al-Tahtawi (1801–73) and Qasim Amin (1865–1908) advocated education for women as a means to advance Arab-Islamic society. The first schools for Muslim girls were established in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon. At the dawn of the 20th century, women began to emerge and occupy pioneering positions in teaching, the labour force and protest movements against colonial powers.

Working NumberNameHolding MuseumDateMaterialsCurator Justification
FR 171Trips to Morocco. Oujda via Lalla Marnia. Hôtel Figari […] car service every day […] links to the Tlemcen stagecoach and trains to Western Algeria. National Library of France 1895Western travellers in the Arab and Ottoman world often sought out scenes of daily life involving women. The way Europeans imagined the position of women in Arab and Ottoman society, deduced not least from the way they dressed, was fed by often fanciful, romanticised and inaccurate accounts from travellers or the photographs they brought back.
TN 067L'École de la Rue du Pacha (classrooom exit)Institut Supérieur d’Histoire Contemporaine de la Tunisie1907PaperAccess to modern education was essential for women in the Arab world at the dawn of the early 20th century. In countries such as Tunisia the struggle for independence enabled women to participate in political rallies from which they had previously been excluded.
TN 069Women going about their daily life Institut Supérieur d’Histoire Contemporaine de la TunisieEarly 20th century PaperWestern travellers in the Arab and Ottoman world often sought out scenes of daily life involving women. The way Europeans imagined the position of women in Arab and Ottoman society, deduced not least from the way they dressed, was fed by often fanciful, romanticised and inaccurate accounts from travellers or the photographs they brought back.
TR2 164The Artist Girl and Her StudioSabancı University, Sakıp Sabancı Museum19th centuryOil on canvasIt was difficult for women to access certain artistic professions both in Europe and in the Arab and Ottoman world. In the late 19th century, women slowly began to come into their own in the world of painters, sculptors and writers.
UK 145Votes for WomenVictoria and Albert Museum1910 (designed and printed)Paper, lithographic ink; colour lithograph on paper, planographic printingIn Europe, women’s access to political life ignited impassioned debates throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The right to vote was one of the major battles in the fight for male/female equality.
ET1 017Women in the Revolution of 1919Bibliotheca AlexandrinaMarch 1919In the Arab and Ottoman world, the struggle for independence enabled women to participate in political rallies from which they had previously been excluded.