Education of Women in the Harem

smallsquare1-150x150 Author's Blog Historical Romance History Ottoman Empire Seraglio Women's Education Women in Ottoman society may have been better educated than their contemporaries in England.

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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3 thoughts on “Education of Women in the Harem

  1. Interesting. I just finished writing a regency centered on an Indian tawaif, a courtesan in a geisha-type tradition. For centuries the most powerful and best educated woman in India.

    • That sounds interesting. There are a number of these pockets of women’s culture that surprise. The west tended to keep women illiterate.

  2. Dear Ms Caroline Warfield. Thanks for bringing an awareness to the education of women during the Ottoman era, in particular at the Court. Knowledge is the path to freedom and self-sufficiency, hence the restrictions imposed on women from immemorial times to the present. It is no accident that Eve’s knowledge was considered (and still is) as the “original sin”. True equality is resisted at all levels for we cannot get beyond the “Law of the Jungle”.
    You may be interested in my latest book “Thoughts in Writings: Spiritual, Political, Social” that deal on these topics as well as “The Light of Truth Beaming on The Human Race”. They are available on my website or can be bought at Your own books seem pleasing and I shall look for them. Best regards, Nadine

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