Aviation Pioneers

Belkıs Şevket – The First Turkish Woman To Board a Plane

Unfortunately, the history of humanity does not give a good test on gender equality until today. Men’s and women’s roles in mind prevent many talented people from showing their potential. This situation was perhaps even worse in the early 1900s. In those years, in many countries, the idea of ​​women being pilots and flying was considered counterintuitive. However, thanks to brave and talented people, these patterns began to be broken over time. In this article, we will talk about the story of Belkıs Şevket, the first Turkish woman to board a plane.

After the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Monarchy, some Turkish women founded the “Kadınların Haklarını Savunma Derneği “-“Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights” in 1913 in Istanbul. This society was publishing a magazine called “Kadınlar Dünyası” – “Women’s World”. Belkıs Şevket Hanım was also an active member of this association and was one of the writers of the Women’s World magazine. Through the association, she was making an effort to make the voice of Turkish women heard and to collect aid that could gift a plane to the Turkish Army. He arranged a meeting in the association for this purpose. He made a request to Süreyya Bey, the husband of Mesadet Bedirhen, who was a member of the association. He went to the Aircraft School Directorate in Safraköy and asked Süreyya Bey to request the director of the school so that he could fly by plane. Süreyya Bey did not refuse this request and went to the Aircraft School. However, Veli Bey, the director of the Aircraft School, stated that he could not make a decision on this matter. He said that for such a flight, permission should be obtained from the First Corps Command.

Belkıs Şevket
Women’s World Magazine

Women’s Association – Flight permit

Thereupon, the Women’s Association applied to Deputy Commander of the First Corps, Cemal Mersinli. The association obtained the necessary written permission from the corps commander. With the permission obtained, plans were made for Belkıs Şevket Hanım to fly on Sunday, December 12, 1913, or the next day if the weather was not suitable. However, due to the intermittent rain on Sunday, the flight could not be made. Therefore, the flight was delayed to Monday, December 13, 1913. Belkıs Şevket had printed a basket full of cards on behalf of the association to throw them off the plane. On this card, words of support were written for the donation campaign was writing.

On Monday, December 13, 1913, the president of the association and the members went to Yeşilköy. They arrived at the site at around 13:00. There were local and foreign press members as well as the audience in the area. The plane that Belkıs Şevket Hanım was going to board was a Deperdussin type plane and the pilot of the plane was to be piloted by First Lieutenant Fethi Bey. The name of the aircraft was “Ottoman” and it was a single-engine open-top aircraft. After Belkıs Şevket Hanım gave a small, short speech to the gathered crowd, the plane took off at around 15:14. The flight, which took place around 200 meters, took place over Şişli, Hürriyet Monument, Üsküdar and Kadıköy. While Belkıs Şevket Hanım was in the air with the plane, she threw the prepared cards to the crowd. The total flight took about 15 minutes.

Belkıs Şevket – Donation Campaign

However, the fundraiser did not get the desired attention. During the campaign, which lasted for three weeks in total, 2622 Kurus could be collected. However, Belkıs Şevket Hanım’s flight attracted attention in the foreign press. For example; In the news of the Berliner Tageblatt (or simply BT) newspaper published between 1872 and 1939 in Germany, newspaper used the phrase “with bold gestures that should be carefully considered”.

After the flight of Belkıs Şevket Hanım, the military government of the period exhibited its photographs in the military museum. In addition, a newly released cologne at that time was called “Belkıs Cologne Water”.

Although it may seem simple, no Turkish woman had ever gotten on a plane until that day. But after this incident, many taboos such as women flying and being pilots were broken and the doors were opened.

  • Although some sources state that the day Ms. Belkıs Şevket took flight as 1 December 1913, THE FIRST FLYING WOMAN ON ISTANBUL SKYLINES: MRS. BELKIS ŞEVKET Umut KARABULUT*, Sema DOĞAN** The academic article titled states the flight day as 13 December 1913.
Belkıs Şevket
Belkıs Şevket