Women’s Culture in Saudi Arabia (1900–1940): An Ethnohistorical Study





Although much has been written about women in the Middle East, several aspects have remained unexplored. This study provides a new perspective on women’s culture in Saudi Arabia in the early decades of the 20th century using oral history and storytelling. Oral history can fill the gaps in the written history of women and provide a new narrative written by women. The study attempts to revisit the beginning of the 20th century and gather data about the culture regarding women in Saudi Arabia: How has it developed? Most research in this area uses secondary data and depends on interpretations of historical events. This study aims to provide a new narrative through the memories of women. Adding to testimonies, it utilizes other data, such as archives and travelers’ diaries, to present a portrait of the culture regarding women in the 20th century. The main data method is in-depth interviews with a sample of eight women about their life stories. The results present an ethnographic portrait of the culture from several cultural dimensions, such as roles, work, marriage, relationships, and freedom of movement. This study contributes to knowledge as it provides novel data about the women’s culture in Saudi Arabia (1900–1940) through the memories of women—an unprecedented study. The researcher suggests that additional oral history research should be done by taking larger samples from different parts of Saudi Arabia.   

Author Biographies

  • Nouf Alhuzami, King Saud University

    Nouf A. Alhuzami: Assistant professor at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. Vice Dean for academic affairs. Her primary areas of teaching are media theories, media critique, media literacy and media and globalization. Nouf’s research interests include cultural change, digital cultures, ethnohistory, women’s studies, public spheres and collective consciousness. Her professional experience includes working as a PR media specialist. Email: Nalhuzami@ksu.edu.sa

    ORCID https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2721-9144

  • Olga Bailey

    Olga Guedes Bailey: Associate Professor at Nottingham Trent University. Program leader of MA Media and Globalization (UK and China). She currently teaches on globalization theories, transnational media, digital cultures, migration and vulnerable women, alternative media, and journalism. Olga’s research interests include women’s studies, migration, and media; digital cultures and social changes, alternative media and minorities, and arts, creativity, activism, and citizenship. She currently is coordinating a European project on art and activism. Email: olga.bailey@ntu.ac.uk.

    ORCID https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7266-7651