23 June World Women Engineers Day: Turkey’s first female engineer Sabiha Rıfat Gürayman and her story integrated with Anıtkabir

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23 Haziran Dünya Kadın Mühendisler Günü: Türkiye

She worked as the chief control engineer for 9 years in the construction of Anıtkabir, and went down in history as the first female engineer to build a bridge in Anatolia.

in 1927 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, today Istanbul Technical University He also wants women to be admitted to the Engineering School (Mühendishane-i Bahr-i Hümayun), known as (İTÜ).

NewsSabiha Rıfat (Gürayman), who heard at the last moment, rushes to the faculty to apply two days before.

She won the exams of the university she applied to with her friend Melek (Ertuğ) and became one of the two female students of the Engineering School, where 350 male students attend.

Even after graduation MausoleumShe worked as the chief control engineer for 10 years in the construction of Istanbul, and went down in history as the first female engineer to build a bridge in Anatolia.

She is the first female volleyball player of Fenerbahçe Club and the captain of Fenerbahçe Men’s Volleyball team, which won the championship in 1929.

Sabiha Rıfat Hanım will lead a transformation in the engineering profession, which was dominated by men in the first years of the Republic.

We followed the trail of Sabiha Rıfat Gürayman, who “integrated” with Anıtkabir.

Sabiha Rıfat Hanım: ‘Can she succeed in my family?’ there was no doubt

When Sabiha Rıfat Hanım’s father, Captain Rıfat Bey, was born in Manastır, Macedonia, in 1910, the family started to live in Üsküdar.

Sabiha Hanım, whose mother and younger brother got tuberculosis, lost her mother at a young age.

Sabiha Hanım was telling that she always supported her family’s education despite the years spent with war fatigue and diseases.

The memories he shared in an interview with ITU Foundation Magazine in 1991 are as follows:

“My first teachers were my mother and father. I learned to read and write even before I started primary school. My father graduated from Harbiye in 1906, fought on many fronts, was wounded and captured. During the war years, the absence, my father’s being a soldier, and the pressures of the occupation forces caused us to change places frequently.

“Due to the great pain we experienced in our family, we could not even experience the enthusiasm of the years when the war ended. Despite all this, my education was not interrupted, I had to make many decisions on this issue myself. They also asked me, ‘Can he succeed?’ His doubt never arose. So I endured until the end without losing my resistance.”

Sabiha, who graduated from Nişantaşı Girls’ Secondary School and enrolled in Istanbul Girls’ High School, was aware of her talent for mathematics, just like her teachers.

As soon as she heard that female students would be admitted to the Engineering School by Atatürk’s order, she ran to the school in Gümüşsuyu.

He had neither documents nor money with him.

With the help of her secondary school in Nişantaşı, Sabiha collected her documents at the last moment and applied, standing out among high school graduates.

‘We will do what everyone else is doing’

She graduated from the school in 1933 as the country’s first female civil engineer.

Sabiha Hanım, who repeated throughout her life that she did not see any difference between them and her male colleagues, turned to her friend Melek Hanım, with whom she graduated, and said, “What do we do now?” When he was asked, he replied, “Whatever everyone else is doing, we will do the same.”

Sabiha, later AnkaraHe started to work at the Nafia Directorate (Ministry of Public Works) in .

He was telling that when he started his career, his name had changed to “Engineer Hanım”:

“Most of the time, when people looking for engineers come into my room and see a woman, they come back, and those who hear a female voice on the phone hang back. But over time, I got used to it and there was a great circle of love and respect around me.”

BBC TurkishSpeaking to , Engineer and Educator Assoc. Dr. Günseli Naymansoy says, “At that time, graduates of good schools could be in the state. After applying to the Ministry of Public Works, he was hired, but was hired to sit at his desk.”

Naymansoy, who has books about women who pioneered the world of science in the Republican era, has been researching Sabiha Hanım’s story for years.

Naymansoy stated that while the country was being rebuilt, the construction of schools, buildings and bridges gained momentum and even competitions were held for architects, adding, “He also wanted to take part in these construction sites, but he was not allowed. He didn’t listen, he insisted that I will go to the bridge constructions.” .

‘There can be no female engineers at the construction site at the top of the mountain’

Indeed, no one could hold Sabiha Hanım.

He took an active role in the construction of the bridge built on the 86th kilometer of the Ankara-Beypazarı highway in 1936. Thus, she won the title of the first female engineer to build a bridge in Anatolia.

After taking part in the construction of the Erzurum Fountain and some schools in Ankara, he was also enthusiastic when officials were appointed for the Maiden’s Bridge.

Saying that Sabiha Hanım pressured Nevzat Tandoğan, the Governor of Ankara at the time, to work on the bridges, Naymansoy comments that the governorship sent her to the Kız Bridge with the thought “However, she will come back, she will get bored”.

Sabiha Hanım also said in her interview that Governor Tandoğan, who said to the chief engineer of the bridge, “There can be no female engineers at the construction site at the top of the mountain,” opposed her working on the bridge.

When the task was given to her as a result of her insistence, Sabiha Hanım, who put on her golf pants and ran to the construction site, soon won the love and respect of both the villagers and the workers she worked with.

He stayed at the construction site with the workers in tents, in the absence of even a toilet, until the construction of the bridge was completed.

Naymansoy says that Sabiha Hanım, whom the villagers call “the girl’s servant on the bridge”, chased after the workers who wanted to quit and convinced them to finish the bridge.

Sabiha Rıfat also told about these memories in her interview:

“One evening, one of the workers broke into my tent and told me that the workers had left. I ran after them in the dark of night and asked where they were going. They said that they would be given more money and that the winter was about to come, they would go to one of the villages to build a mosque. Even though I am a woman, I am not afraid of anything, they should not be afraid of it, I said that the bridge is more important than the mosque.”

Anitkabir journey

What changed Sabiha Hanım’s life was that she was awarded the position of chief control engineer in the construction of Anıtkabir.

He was appointed as the Control Chief, which was opened due to the departure of MSc Engineer Ekrem Demirtaş.

prof. Emin Onat and Prof. The construction of Anıtkabir, the project of Orhan Arda, started with a magnificent groundbreaking ceremony on October 9, 1944 and lasted for about 10 years.

In the series of articles published in Milliyet newspaper for three days in 1973, Sabiha Hanım described her excitement with these words:

“It was a winter day in 1945. Since the roads were bad, we only set out for Rasattepe with a horse-drawn carriage. The road was muddy and the weather was freezing. There was an observatory building on the land without even a stove. From that day on, it was to be used as a construction site. “I handed over the construction site to the contractor that day. I was tremendously touched. I thought about the long years I had left behind and the way I walked. I was crushed under the weight of my debt to the great revolutionary. What a beautiful coincidence it was to be able to pay at least a small part of this debt.”

Sabiha, who noted that the construction stopped from time to time as a result of the difficulties caused by foreign companies during the Second World War, but that she was “determined to take the work to the end”, said:

“The president and prime minister of the period also came to Anıtkabir from time to time and followed the construction closely. Every time I came to see the building, I was there to give information and convey the developments.”

Sabiha Hanım continued her duty with determination until the construction of Anıtkabir was completed.

‘Anıtkabir was like a prayer for him’

Günseli Naymansoy says that Sabiha Gürayman, who does not have a child, “puts her profession in the most important place in her life.

Naymansoy says, “It was very important for him to be chosen to work in Anıtkabir. He was almost integrated with Anıtkabir. It was like a prayer for him.”

Sabiha Gürayman saw her work in Anıtkabir as “an occasion to pay off her debt” to Atatürk.

He retired voluntarily after a while after being appointed as Technical Consultant at the Head of Building and Zoning Affairs.

He did not break his ties with ITU for many years. At a ceremony organized by the graduates of the university, the rector of the time, Prof. Dr. Kemal Kafalı, addressed the former graduates as “my brothers” in his speech, and he would not neglect to shout “You have older sisters here too”.

‘He used to work alone in desolate places, he was fearless’

ITU Foundation Editorial Director Hatice Yazıcı made an interview with Sabiha Hanım on the 58th anniversary of her graduation in 1991.

Speaking to BBC Turkish, Hatice Yazıcı says that she was very impressed by Sabiha Hanım’s courage during this interview published in the İTÜ Foundation Magazine.

“Despite her age, she had a brilliant memory. She impressed me a lot with her dedication to the profession,” said Hatice Yazıcı, and continues:

“I was very impressed by his determination to enter ITU at a young age. He worked alone in bridge construction in lonely places, he was fearless. He was very attached to his friends, to ITU.”

Sabiha Hanım lived with her niece Beyhan Susup in İzmir for a while after she lost her husband, Remzi Gürayman, who was a classmate from İTÜ.

Stating that Sabiha Hanım, who died at the age of 93 in 2003, left a suitcase full of photographs, documents and memories of Anıtkabir, Naymansoy continues:

“She was a determined woman who was determined to make a difference. I think she wanted to do something that everyone could not achieve and that was not dared. Sabiha Hanım’s greatest achievement is that she is a very active role model by showing that women can be engineers to the next generations with her strong personality and determination.”


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