Struggling for individuality: the Istanbul YWCA
This study argues that the YWCA’s mainly American staff, observing that familial, social and educational structure prevented women from independent decision-making in Istanbul, promoted individuality by their labor and health practices between 1913-1930. The YWCA contributed to a discourse on the role of women that accentuated their individuality by promoting an autonomous professional identity instead of women’s maternal and marital roles. Putting emphasis on their individual’s needs first, they encouraged women to stand on their own, and to formulate and pursue their own professional goals as well as take care of themselves. The YWCA’s American staff promoted both having a profession and a healthy body as aims in and of themselves without links to nationalism, or motherhood, thus forming a contrast with the late Ottoman State’s and Early Republican state’s ideologies while simultaneously challenging the gender roles and patriarchal codes. Their prioritizing having a career over marriage and motherhood contributed to feminist activism.