Ordinary women are among the least known subjects of Ottoman Turkish historiography.
One of the most important reasons for this lack of information is that the Turkish
archives are not organized in such a way that researchers can easily access documents
on ordinary women. However, the difficulty in finding women’s voices in historical
documents is only one part of the problem. Whereas conventional Ottoman-Turkish
historiography prioritizes the acts of those holding power, most Turkish feminist
historiography focuses on the organized activities of elite and middle-class women
rather than ordinary women due to various paradigmatic and methodological restrictions.
This article explains these limitations and proposes less conventional methods
for conducting research on ordinary Ottoman women, who were important actors on
the home front during World War I. It discusses theoretical approaches, methodology,
and alternative sources that can be used to conduct research on women in the Turkish
archives. It also presents some examples of ordinary Ottoman women’s voices and
everyday struggles against the violence they suffered during World War I, using new,
alternative sources like women’s petitions and telegrams to the state bureaucracy as
well as folk songs.