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An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem


New Introduction by Teresa Heffernan and Reina Lewis


Grace Ellison (d. 1935) actively encouraged dialogues between Turkish and British women at the outset of the twentieth century. Connected with progressive Ottoman elites discussing female and social emancipation, Ellison stayed in an Ottoman harem. Working as a respected journalist, she published articles about British-Turkish relations, Turkish nationalism, and the status of women across cultures. This book recounts Ellison’s stay with her friend Fâtima and features reports on motherhood, employment, polygamy, slavery, harem life, modernization, veiling, and prominent women writers. Despite an impressive legacy, Ellison and her work have almost disappeared from the historical record; the republication of this 1915 work aims to address this neglect.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-59333-211-2
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Feb 23,2007
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 288
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-59333-211-2
$154.00
$92.40
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Grace Ellison (d. 1935) actively encouraged dialogues between Turkish and British women at the outset of the twentieth century. Connected with progressive Ottoman elites discussing female and social emancipation, Ellison introduced Melek Hanoum and Zeyneb Hanoum to a British audience, (see this series) and together, they stayed in Ottoman harems, Ellison herself included. Working as a respected journalist, both at home and abroad, she published articles about British-Turkish relations, Turkish nationalism, and the status of women across cultures, some of which are the basis for this book. An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem recounts Ellison’s stay with her friend Fâtima (a pseudonym used to protect the Ottoman woman’s identity) and features reports on motherhood, employment, polygamy, slavery, harem life, modernization, veiling, and prominent women writers. While generally anti-orientalist and supportive of both national and female emancipation, Ellison sometimes found herself indulging in orientalist views, even as she worked to correct them. Her awareness of the luxury offered by elite harems, a privilege not available to her in the West, sometimes put a nostalgic spin on her depiction of Ottoman culture at odds with her approval elsewhere of the social and political reforms being introduced in early-twentieth-century Ottoman and Turkish society. However, she also valued the sense of community and protection afforded to women of Muslim societies, and encouraged Turkey to adopt a version of feminism that held onto some of these Eastern traditions, rather than abandon them and mimic an individualistic Western model. Her expertise allowed her to correct Western prejudices about Turks, while her professional status in Turkey meant that she was the first Westerner allowed to cross enemy lines in the 1920s, to visit the nationalists in Ankara and to interview Mustafa Kemal. Despite an impressive legacy, Ellison and her work have almost disappeared from the historical record; the republication of this 1915 work aims to address this neglect.

Grace Ellison (d. 1935) actively encouraged dialogues between Turkish and British women at the outset of the twentieth century. Connected with progressive Ottoman elites discussing female and social emancipation, Ellison introduced Melek Hanoum and Zeyneb Hanoum to a British audience, (see this series) and together, they stayed in Ottoman harems, Ellison herself included. Working as a respected journalist, both at home and abroad, she published articles about British-Turkish relations, Turkish nationalism, and the status of women across cultures, some of which are the basis for this book. An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem recounts Ellison’s stay with her friend Fâtima (a pseudonym used to protect the Ottoman woman’s identity) and features reports on motherhood, employment, polygamy, slavery, harem life, modernization, veiling, and prominent women writers. While generally anti-orientalist and supportive of both national and female emancipation, Ellison sometimes found herself indulging in orientalist views, even as she worked to correct them. Her awareness of the luxury offered by elite harems, a privilege not available to her in the West, sometimes put a nostalgic spin on her depiction of Ottoman culture at odds with her approval elsewhere of the social and political reforms being introduced in early-twentieth-century Ottoman and Turkish society. However, she also valued the sense of community and protection afforded to women of Muslim societies, and encouraged Turkey to adopt a version of feminism that held onto some of these Eastern traditions, rather than abandon them and mimic an individualistic Western model. Her expertise allowed her to correct Western prejudices about Turks, while her professional status in Turkey meant that she was the first Westerner allowed to cross enemy lines in the 1920s, to visit the nationalists in Ankara and to interview Mustafa Kemal. Despite an impressive legacy, Ellison and her work have almost disappeared from the historical record; the republication of this 1915 work aims to address this neglect.

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Grace Ellison