HALIDE EDIP ADIVAR
Halide Edip Adivar 1882-1964 (CE) was a bestselling Turkish author in the first half of the 20th century who was renowned for her social and political activism on behalf of the women’s emancipation movement and Turkish independence.
Halide was born in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) in 1882, where her father was treasurer to the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II. The Edip household was at the heart of the city’s intellectual community, and unusually for the time, Halide’s father encouraged his daughter to pursue a high level of education: she was the first Turkish woman to graduate from the American College for Girls, a hothouse of socially reformist ideology at the time.
After graduating from college she became a teacher at a girls’ high school in Constantinople, and later was invited by the Syrian Ministry of Education to reform its girls’ education system, to which she added science and languages to the curriculum and encouraged people to take female education seriously.
She remained involved in the education sector all her life, later becoming a university lecturer at Istanbul’s Faculty of Letters, and in 1939 founding the English Language and Literature Department at Istanbul University.
Halide’s professional life reflected her feminist beliefs, from her work in promoting female education to her founding of the Society for the Elevation of Women in 1908, which was at the forefront of Turkey’s female emancipation movement.
Her numerous successful novels feature strong female characters and criticise the low social status of Turkish women at the time as well as their apathy towards changing their own situation.
Despite her socially precarious position as a young mother of two children, her feminism also gave her the courage to divorce her first husband when took another wife against her wishes.
As well as her feminist activism, Halide was an ardent nationalist. She campaigned heavily for Turkish independence following Turkey’s partitioning by British and Greek forces in the aftermath of the First World War. She made rousing speeches in support of independence at rallies and mass meetings and became the first woman in Turkey to make such public addresses.
During the war itself (1919 – 1923) she nursed wounded troops and accompanied the future President of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk) to the front lines, often taking part in the fighting. Her bravery earned her the honorary rank of corporal and later even major.
Her detailed account of her experiences and observations during the war are some of her most celebrated works, such as The Wolf Who Climbed Up the Mountain (1922), The Shirt of Flame(1922) and Kill the Whore! (1926). These works have been vital in educating future generations on the origins of the modern Turkish Republic and its socio-historical context.
After the war she and her husband were disappointed by the Ataturk’s new leadership and left Turkey to live in England and the USA, where Halide continued her career as a novelist. They returned to Turkey before her death in 1964.
Today, Hadibe is remembered as one of the most eminent authors and activists in Turkey’s history.