fbpx "Women who led the way campaign" 8th of March International Women's Days Campaign | EU Delegation to Türkiye
Remembering Some Of Turkey’s Women Pioneers

"Women who led the way campaign" 8th of March International Women's Days Campaign

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

International Women's Day has been occurring for well over a century - and continues to grow from strength to strength.

Gender equality is one of the founding values of the European Union, and a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also smart economics: empowering women is key to enhance business productivity and to increase economic growth, social cohesion and social justice. The EU has so far allocated € 220 million to advance women's rights and to combat inequalities in Türkiye over the past decade in the fields of employment, childcare, education, combating violence against women, anti-discrimination and political participation. The EU's financial cooperation with Türkiye will continue to strive to empower men and women to fully realize their potential and their ambitions.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”.

Along these lines, the EU Delegation to Türkiye chose to bring to the fore a number of women pioneers, some of them not widely known, who led the way for their peers, and generations to come.

We also celebrate this Day with a series of events in 20 other cities across the country hosting successful women entrepreneurs from the regions who will share their stories with the local audience.

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Semiha Es (1912 – 2012) Woman combat photo journalist, worked in warzones such as Korea, Vietnam, and Rwanda.

Turkey’s first woman combat photojournalist, who had to hide her hands to avoid being identified as a woman in warzones, went from country to country to tell the story of faces imprisoned by conflict, knowing full well that her photos would not be published during her lifetime, and took numerous poignant photos, including of soldiers who hugged their mothers tightly as they tried to prolong their farewells.




Müfide İlhan – First Woman Provincial Mayor (1911- 1996)

She was elected mayor in 1950 by the Mersin Municipal Assembly. She managed to transform the face of the city and its culture in a very short amount of time. She never compromised on her principles. The biggest obstacles to her career were former administrators unused to seeing a woman working at a senior level in local government. Regardless, her biggest supporters were the people of Mersin and its women.


Samiye Cahid Morkaya

Samiye Cahid Morkaya (1897-1972) Türkiye’s first woman racecar driver

She was the first Turkish woman to acquire a driver’s license, and she managed to place near the top in the races she competed in. After her first win, there were calls to cancel the race solely on the basis that she was a woman. Thanks to her efforts, court transcriptions on record from 1932 say, “A woman may participate in and place first in an automobile race.”



Halet Çambel (1916 – 2014) The woman who deciphered the Hittite hieroglyphs

A leading scholar of archaeology and teacher of numerous accomplished archaeologists who called herself a member of the Hittite community. She worked actively for over 50 years to fulfill her obligations as a teacher and citizen and was also the first Turkish sportswoman to represent her country in the Olympics.



Remziye Hisar (1902 – 1992) / First Turkish woman chemist of the Republican Era and Marie Curie’s only Turkish student

“To hear a woman’s voice echo throughout history, one must listen to that voice carefully. Perhaps that voice will guide people of her gender, who have to work harder than their male counterparts to achieve success.”




Dilhan Eryurt (1926 – 2012) Astrophysicist. First Turkish woman scientist to work for NASA (1961-1973), and in 1969 won the NASA Apollo Achievement Award

She was awarded the Apollo Achievement Award following years of pioneering work at NASA. Since there were no academic staff positions in Türkiye, she began her career as a lab assistant. She never gave up. Her goal was to raise her knowledge of astrophysics to the international level. She finished her career as the dean of the faculty she founded and ran her own department.



Bediha Muvahhit

Bedia Muvahhit (1897-1994) Thespian pioneer

Bedia Muvahhit, who starred in over 200 roles at the City Theaters, was among the first women living in the Ottoman Empire to acquire the right to work at a public institution. She also became the first Turkish woman to star on the silver screen, in a film adaptation of Halide Edip’s novel Ateşten Gömlek (Shirt of Fire), when she insisted that only someone from their company could play the leading role.




Azra Erhat (1915 – 1982)  Female philologist. She translated Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into Turkish.

Mythological heroes from antiquity became widely known in Türkiye thanks to her translations. She was also responsible for laying the foundations of the social sciences in Türkiye. She introduced us to the concept of the Blue Voyage and, prior to her death, wrote articles that centrally revolved around why people should go on these voyages.



Nüshet Gökdoğan

Nüzhet Gökdoğan (1910-2003) Cosmologist

The first woman to teach at Istanbul Technical University. Among her many achievements are the international acceptance of academic research (which had only just begun in Türkiye), having many eminent scientists brought over to Türkiye from overseas, and educating Türkiye’s leading astronomers.



Fatma Aliye Topuz

Fatma Aliye Topuz (1862 – 1936) / Women’s rights pioneer and novelist

She was the Ottoman Empire’s first professional Turkish woman novelist. She was among the first women to go out in public sporting modern-day Western fashions. Throughout her career as an author, translator, and novelist, she was careful to fulfill her social responsibilities. She was the first woman to become a member the Hilal-i Ahmet Society (known today as the Red Crescent).



Nezihe Muhiddin

Nezihe Muhiddin (1889 – 1958) Turkish woman human rights activist who first broached the idea of women running for political office

“For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve pursued causes that I believed in. But don’t think for a minute that it was easy. That is why we need to combine our forces. Otherwise, it will be impossible to break down the barriers this life has placed in front of us women.”



Mualla Eyüboğlu

Mualla Eyüboğlu (1919 - 2009) Türkiye’s pioneering woman architect

She worked for many years as an architect, construction foreman, and teacher during the founding of the Village Institutes. She also contributed to the restoration of numerous cultural heritage sites in Türkiye. It was thanks to her that sites such as the Topkapi Palace were preserved and survived down to this day. Her mantra was, “We’ve always loved this country. The rest is nonsense.”



Semiha Berksoy

Semiha Berksoy (1910 – 2004) One of Türkiye’s first internationally recognized artists

“I’ve always been optimistic about my destiny, despite all the injustices I’ve faced. I’ve been happy to spend time alone with my art, because nothing apart from my art held any interest for me. There’s something that pushes my soul forward that comes to me in the form of a flame. That is the love of art.”



Sabiha Rıfat Gürayman (1910 – 2003) First Turkish female engineer. Captain of the Fenerbahçe men's volleyball team when they won the championship title in 1929

She was the lead engineer working on the construction of Anitkabir. She was the first woman civil engineer to work in the field. She persuaded workers who complained about “taking orders from a woman” by working with them. Villagers whose respect she was able to earn named the first bridge she built “kız köprüsü” (the girl’s bridge). The Girl’s Bridge continues to unite the two sides to this very day.



Selma Rıza Feraceli

Selma Rıza Feraceli (1872 – 1931) Turkish woman journalist, writer, and secretary general of the Hilal-i Ahmer Society

She continued her journalism career, which she was forced to begin overseas, following her return to the country after declaration of the constitutional monarchy. Articles she wrote for women’s magazines of the time about the plight of women made her a pioneer. Despite all that, it took 107 years for her first novel to be published.

Gül Esin.jpeg

Gül Esin (1901 – 1990) First woman muhktar. Muhktar of the the Karpuzlu Çine parish in the province of Aydın in 1933. Received a special honor from Atatürk.

In 1933, at age 32, she became the mukhtar of the village of Demircidere after beating her 4 male rivals in a landslide victory with 500 votes. She banned gambling in coffee houses, put a stop to the abduction of women, and put in place measures to regulate official marriages. She showed that women could also participate in local government during her era.



Suat Berk

Suat Berk (1901 – 2002) One of 3 of the first women to be appointed judges in Türkiye. Started her career in 1930.

She was the world’s first woman magistrate. Berk, who began her career as judge at age 21, said, “I always assumed that people came to court to listen or sort out their affairs. I later found out that they were there to look at women judges.” For the first time in world history, a woman in this country was granted the authority to issue legal rulings.


Safiye Ali

Safiye Ali (1894 – 1952) Türkiye’s first female medical doctor and lecturer in medicine. Safiye Ali is known for her research on women’s health and pediatrics and is synonymous with the Sut Damlasi Nursing Homes

After returning home following her studies overseas, Safiye Ali specialized in women’s health and pediatrics and was responsible for saving thousands of lives. After launching her first practice, she worked for many years to gain the confidence of her patients. In later years, however, there was no end to the queues that gathered outside her door.


İoanna Kuçuradi

İoanna Kuçuradi (b. 1936) Woman philosopher. President of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies (1998-2003) and organizer of the 21st World Congress of Philosophy, Turkish philosopher Ioanna Kuçuradi is a leading figure in the world community of contemporary thinkers.

She emerged as Türkiye’s leading figure in the field of philosophy. She believed in a single code of ethics that would determine the rights and values of every single person and worked toward achieving this goal. She has published numerous works on human rights. She is president of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies and head of the Philosophy Institution.



Leyla Ağaçkoparan

Leyla Ağaçkoparan (b. 1964) Türkiye’s first woman truck driver

Despite the field being dominated by men, she was determined to make a career for herself in the automotive sector, overcoming all obstacles before finally taking to the road. She was truly a woman who pushed her limits and boundaries outside the confines of her home.