Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881 – 1938) was an army officer, revolutionary, and founder of the Republic of Turkey, serving as its first President from 1923 until his death in 1938. His surname, Atatürk, means "Father of the Turks". As a former general, he led the national movement during the War of Independence. He then brought about sweeping reforms, to transform the country into a modern secular nation-state. Thousands of new schools were built, primary education became free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights. The position of peasants was much improved. He led with strength and courage, a clear vision and purpose, a pragmatic idealism, and a strategic perspective.