The education of women is a major plot point in Dangerous Works. The topic seems to thread through many of my stories. I’m currently researching a new book, the third in the Dangerous series. To answer the question, “Might a woman be hired as a teacher in the Topkapi Seraglio (the palace of the Ottoman sultans)?” I found no reason why she wouldn’t be.
It appears that education may have been the original purpose of the women’s quarters of the palace and it continued to play a very important role in later Ottoman history. All residents of the sultan’s household, male and female, slave and free, were expected to be literate. Women studied art, music, literature and the Koran. Those go without saying. They also learned history, geography, and mathematics.
The seraglio (i.e. the Sultans home), which housed the harem (that is the group of women, slave and free, of his household), was administered by the Sultan’s mother, the Valide Sultan. The complex organization demanded well developed administrative and financial skills in the many women who filled positions of influence. Living next to the center of government, the Valide Sultans and their assistants and colleagues learned to wield significant power.
Given women’s roles in other parts of the world at that time, the harem doesn’t seem like a half bad place to be.
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