How were women treated in the Gunpowder Empires?

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saintfester eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Woman in the gunpowder empires shared some similarities. They exercised significant power as patrons of the arts and were also widely involved in the production of handicrafts, especially textiles and worked in most aspects of the farm economy. Women generally took over the home economy when men went off to war.  Islamic law gave women distinct rights, including divorce and marriage annulments.

In the Ottoman Empire, women in the upper classes were segregated while those in the lower classes were freer to circulate and interact with all levels of society. Harems were a common institution in the nobility and upper elite. Although seemingly constrictive, women in harems wielded a large amount of control and influence over the policy of their male consorts.  Some of them used their wealth to patron large scale architecture projects, such as the wife of Suleyman the Magnificent, who oversaw several projects in Istanbul. In this way, women of the upper class played a significant role in Ottoman architecture and the economy.

Women in the Safavid Empire were divided into distinct social groups based on social standings. Most women were allowed or prevented from doing whatever by their husbands. Accounts from travelers also allude to the freedom enjoyed by prostitutes, who in addition to sexual favors also provided entertainment as singers and dancers. Women who lived and worked in the Safavid court were highly segregated from males