African Studies Women and African History
by
Kathleen Sheldon
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0005

Introduction

African women’s history embraces a wide variety of societies in more than fifty countries with different geographies, social customs, religions, and historical situations. Despite that range, it is possible to discuss some common threads, beginning with Africa as a predominantly agricultural continent where between 65 and 80 percent of African women are engaged in cultivating food for their families. The centrality of agriculture influences the control of land and of labor by kin groups and clans, usually represented by male political and religious leadership. Africa had a high incidence of matrilineal descent, a social system that placed a woman and her female relations at the center of kinship and family, though male clan leaders influenced the arrangement of families through marriage. Women used a variety of routes to exercise authority—through women’s organizations, as spiritual leaders, and sometimes as queen mothers, advising male rulers and serving as co-rulers or regents. Europeans first arrived at coastal communities in Africa at the end of the 15th century, and their written observations offer some of the earliest documentation concerning African women, though more likely to include information on elite women. Along the West African coast, female market traders acted as arbiters between local societies and European traders. Slaves within Africa were more likely to be women, a reflection of their productive and reproductive contributions to their communities. Women were more vulnerable to enslavement, and women could be integrated into a new society while men were more likely to be traded away or killed as enemies. Women were also slave owners, especially in areas where they had the opportunity to accrue wealth through trading. The presence of European missionaries, traders, and officials increased throughout the 16th to 19th centuries, with many women losing power and economic autonomy with the arrival of cash crops, while continuing their work growing food for their families. Women’s formal political activity was generally ignored and denigrated by colonial authorities, and they lost ground with colonial legal systems. Simultaneously, they found new ways of working and initiated new family forms as Christianity spread and urbanization accelerated. As nationalist movements gained strength in the early 20th century, women’s involvement was essential to the eventual success of those movements, contributing in a variety of ways, including their status as spirit mediums. In areas with more entrenched White settler populations, Africans turned to sometimes protracted armed struggle, and women were centrally involved, though generally not as actual combatants. The 21st century finds women continuing their primary responsibility for agricultural labor and facing ongoing hindrances to gaining education and employment equal to African men. Women still have serious problems in the areas of polygyny, divorce, inheritance, and widowhood. Since the 1980s, the scourge of HIV/AIDS has inflicted untold hardships on women. The late 20th and early 21st centuries have been marked by localized wars in more than a dozen countries, with women frequently the victims. Yet the last half of the 20th century also brought expanded opportunities for education, new job possibilities, increased political involvement, and improved family expectations.

General Overviews

Women have been neglected and marginalized in the standard texts of African history, and few books have provided an overview of African women’s history. The materials included here are important introductory narratives about women’s history across the continent. Berger and White 1999, Coquery-Vidrovitch 1997, and the article Johnson-Odim 2004 provide a narrative history of women in Africa, and together with the readings collected in Hafkin and Bay 1976, are all good introductory sources. Imam, et al. 1997 is an overview of the state of the field rather than a narrative history, and both Meena 1992 and Oyewùmí 1997 offer insight into some of the theoretical considerations of studying the history of African women. Robertson 1988 makes an argument for the value of studying African women’s history.

  • Berger, Iris, and E. Frances White. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: Restoring Women to History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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    A narrative guide to women’s history in Africa, divided into two sections, with Berger writing on East and southern Africa and White contributing on West and West Central Africa. This volume is part of the series “Restoring Women to History” and was originally designed to assist professors who wished to be more inclusive of non-Western women in their courses.

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  • Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. African Women: A Modern History. Translated by Beth Gillian Raps. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997.

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    Originally published as Les Africaines: Histoire des femmes d’Afrique noire du XIX au XX siècle (Paris: Éditions Desjonquères, 1994). Presents material thematically within broad chronological categories, with chapters on slavery, peasant women, powerful women, prostitution, poverty, factory work, trade, schooling, and other similar topics. Though the writing is idiosyncratic, it remains the only available textbook on African women’s history.

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  • Hafkin, Nancy J., and Edna G. Bay, eds. Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976.

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    One of the earliest publications to address African women’s history. Many of the articles in this collection remain classics of analysis, including those on women entrepreneurs in 18th-century Senegal, the Aba Women’s War, East African spirit mediums, and women’s associations in Mombasa, Kenya.

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  • Imam, Ayesha M., Amina Mama, and Fatou Sow, eds. Engendering African Social Sciences. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 1997.

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    A collection of articles that offers an overview of history, economics, psychology, education, the environment, agriculture, and culture across Africa. Reprinted as Sexe, genre et société: Engendrer les sciences sociales africaines (Paris: Karthala, 2004).

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  • Johnson-Odim, Cheryl. “Women and Gender in the History of Sub-Saharan Africa.” In Women’s History in Global Perspective. Vol.3. Edited by Bonnie G. Smith, 9-67. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004

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    Begins with human origins, and includes the spread of Christianity and Islam, early societies, and colonialism and independence. Johnson-Odim covers a lot of ground in a coherent manner. The article was later issued by the American Historical Association as part of their pamphlet series on Women’s and Gender History in Global Perspective (Washington D.C: American Historical Association, 2007).

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  • Meena, Ruth, ed. Gender in Southern Africa: Conceptual and Theoretical Issues. Harare, Zimbabwe: SAPES, 1992.

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    Edited by a leading Tanzanian scholar, this collection of essays by African women and women based in Africa discusses explicitly theoretical issues related to feminism, economics, sexuality, and women’s studies more generally from a southern African perspective.

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  • Oyewùmí, Oyèrónké. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

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    A key theoretical contribution to gender analysis in Africa. Oyewùmí, using evidence from the Yoruba in Nigeria, argues that male and female gender divisions taken for granted in the West do not apply to African societies, where ascription to a male or female gender position does not always correlate to biological sexual differences between men and women.

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  • Robertson, Claire C. “Never Underestimate the Power of Women: The Transforming Vision of African Women’s History.” Women’s Studies International Forum 11.5 (1988): 439–453.

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    Robertson suggests important ways in which African women’s history questions assumptions found in women’s history and in African history, particularly by understanding African experiences of marriage and family, economic production, religion, legal issues, and class formation, including slavery. Though written in the 1980s, her argument continues to have value, in part because of the continuing marginalization of African women’s history.

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    Reference Works

    There are few reference works on African women’s history; the primary exception is the historical dictionary Sheldon 2005. The biographical dictionary Ba Konaré 1993 is a notable contribution to the field, though focused only on Mali, and African Academy of Sciences and Association of African Women for Research and Development 1998 brings together important information on the focused topic of women in Kenya. Skaine 2008 compiles a variety of material on women in politics across the continent, while the Beyond Inequality series includes compendiums of women’s situation in southern Africa. Bibliographies are divided into two sections, one of General and Topical Bibliographies that cover the continent, the other a selection of Country-Specific Bibliographies.

    • African Academy of Sciences, and the Association of African Women for Research and Development. Infobank of Gender and Gender-Related Institutions in Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Academy Science Publishers, 1998.

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      This resource is a compilation of information on organizations in Kenya that work on women and development. The material is organized on standardized forms that include contact details, the goals of the organization, group activities and achievements, and their funding sources.

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    • Ba Konaré, Adam. Dictionnaire des femmes célèbres du Mali: des temps mythico-légendaires au 26 mars 1991. Bamako, Mali: Éditions Jamana, 1993.

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      This large-format volume is a valuable resource of brief biographical information on important women in Mali from very early times.

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      • Beyond Inequalities. 12 vols. Harare, Zimbabwe: Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, 1997–2005.

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        SARDC published a collection of books in the Beyond Inequalities series, with individual volumes on Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and an overview, Beyond Inequalities: Women in Southern Africa (2000). Each follows a similar format of brief background essays on the economy, politics, policy analysis, and bibliography, with supporting documents and sources.

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        • Sheldon, Kathleen. Historical Dictionary of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2005.

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          Paperback edition issued in 2010 titled The A to Z of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa. This volume includes nearly seven hundred separate entries on key individuals, events, publications, organizations, and terms. The book also includes an introductory essay, a historiographic essay, and a lengthy bibliography of important sources.

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        • Skaine, Rosemarie. Women Political Leaders in Africa. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.

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          A study of contemporary political women, with data, profiles of eleven women, and country-by-country overviews.

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        General and Topical Bibliographies

        Bibliographies that attempt to be global in their coverage include Bullwinkle 1989 and the online source African Women Bibliographic Database, which represents new access to information about publications on African women as a result of the growth of electronic resources. Bibliographies on a particular subject, such as Berrian 1985 on writers and Giorgis 1986 on health, offer a wider view of women on the continent. Bibliographies on African women and development include Hafkin 1977 and Oke 2001.

        • African Women Bibliographic Database.

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          This online bibliography contains nearly 40,000 records, retrievable by author, topic, country or region, and includes conference papers, government documents, and dissertations as well as publications. It was started by Davis Bullwinkle (Bullwinkle 1989) and is maintained by the African Studies Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. Includes separate sections on Africana periodical literature and women travelers, explorers, and missionaries to Africa.

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          • Berrian, Brenda F. Bibliography of African Women Writers and Journalists (Ancient Egypt to 1984). Washington, DC: Three Continents, 1985.

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            Berrian’s bibliography is a unique source on many lesser-known African women writers, for each of whom she has included a list of publications, often local and sometimes obscure. The chapters cover fiction (including children’s literature), drama, poetry, folklore, journalistic essays, and other writings such as book reviews (both by the authors and of the authors’ works) and letters. The volume is extensively indexed.

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          • Bullwinkle, Davis. African Women: A General Bibliography, 1976–1985. New York: Greenwood, 1989.

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            The first volume was accompanied by two regional volumes, Women of Eastern and Southern Africa: A Bibliography, 1976–1985 (1989), and Women of Northern, Western and Central Africa: A Bibliography, 1976–1985 (1989). These volumes, though extensive, were awkwardly organized and repetitive. The material is now found at AfricaBib.org, which houses the online African Women Bibliographic Database.

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          • Giorgis, Belkis Wolde. A Selected and Annotated Bibliography on Women and Health in Africa. Dakar, Senegal: Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD), 1986.

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            Divided into sections on nutrition, mental health, abortion, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, and “female circumcision,” this bibliography lists many articles from medical journals and is carefully annotated.

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            • Hafkin, Nancy J. Women and Development in Africa: An Annotated Bibliography. UN/ECA Bibl. Series No. 1. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: United Nations, Economic Commission on Africa, African Training and Research Center for Women, 1977.

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              This general bibliography on development of more than five hundred entries includes many United Nations and other agency reports. It was followed by individual monographs on various countries (Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali, Zambia, Zimbabwe) that were published throughout the 1980s by UN/ECA/ATRCW.

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              • Oke, Olufunke A. From Conference to Conference: A Bibliography of African Women and Development, 1980–1995. Ibadan, Nigeria: Rex Charles, 2001.

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                Includes more than 3,300 sources for the whole continent, drawn primarily from materials held in Nigerian libraries, including WORDOC (Women’s Research and Documentation Centre, Ibadan). Well indexed by subject and author, organized by type of publication (books, articles, dissertations, conference papers).

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              Country-Specific Bibliographies

              Many bibliographies are focused on a single country, and because they have often been published in that country, they are not readily available elsewhere. They can be very useful, as with the Mascarenhas and Mbilinyi 1983 bibliography on Tanzanian women, followed by Mukangara 1995, both of which are extensively annotated and include many items from Tanzanian publications that would be difficult to locate without having the citation available. Ardayfio-Schandorf and Kwafo-Akoto 1990, Azikiwe 1996, Erickson 1993, and Mapetla and Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa 1996 all contribute annotated lists of sources on their countries. The bibliography on South Africa, Durban Women’s Bibliography Group 1996, is extensive, though not annotated.

              • Ardayfio-Schandorf, Elizabeth, and Kate Kwafo-Akoto. Women in Ghana: An Annotated Bibliography. Accra, Ghana: Woeli Publishing Services, 1990.

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                This well-annotated bibliography includes many local publications. The lists are organized by subject, including development, population, education, health, work, law and politics, and culture and religion.

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              • Azikiwe, Uche. Women in Nigeria: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

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                A compilation of more than five hundred entries based on materials found in Nigerian libraries that were published after 1975. It includes many local publications, articles from Nigerian journals, government documents, conference papers, and theses. The annotations are helpful. Topics include agriculture, development, education, health, family, and labor.

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              • Durban Women’s Bibliography Group. South African Women: A Select Bibliography. 3d ed. Johannesburg: South Africa Institute of International Affairs, 1996.

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                Two earlier volumes (1985 and 1991) were on southern Africa; the third edition focuses on South Africa, with sections on domestic relations, politics, economic activities, health, religion, life histories, bibliographies, and more. Not annotated and does not include government documents, but does include conference papers and theses.

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              • Erickson, Christine. Women in Botswana: An Annotated Bibliography. Gaborone, Botswana: Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Project, 1993.

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                More than three hundred entries on agriculture, development, education, health, and law, with many unpublished sources.

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              • Mapetla, Matšeliso, and Matšeliso Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa. Women in Lesotho: An Annotated Bibliography. 3d ed. Roma, Lesotho: Institute of Southern African Studies, National University of Lesotho, 1996.

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                The third volume of this bibliography has more than two hundred entries that are all new to this edition (earlier editions were published in 1984 and 1990). There are many unpublished papers and theses from the National University of Lesotho, making it a valuable source.

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              • Mascarenhas, Ophelia, and Marjorie Mbilinyi. Women in Tanzania: An Analytical Bibliography. Uppsala, Sweden: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1983.

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                A useful source on publications by and about women in Tanzania, including many sources from Tanzanian publications, masters’ theses, and conference papers. The strengths of this volume are the essays that introduce each section and the detailed assessments in the annotations. A follow-up bibliography was compiled in Mukangara 1995.

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              • Mukangara, Fenella. Women and Gender Studies in Tanzania: An Annotated Bibliography (1982–1994). Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1995.

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                Nearly 1,000 items on education, labor, agriculture, development, politics, law, and women’s organizations. Covers publications after Mascarenhas and Mbilinyi 1983.

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              Review Essays

              An important source for information on the state of the field has been review essays. Over the years there has been a series of reviews by leading scholars, beginning with Strobel 1982. Hay 1988 and Hunt 1989 each followed with general overviews of the African women’s history. More specific review essays are Hansen and Strobel 1985 on family history, Robertson 1987 discussing economic history, and Guyer 1991 with a focus on agriculture, and Epprecht 2009 on the historiography of studies of sexuality. Zeleza 1997 presents a critical overview that assesses the gaps in studies of African women. The materials cited in each essay are a reliable starting point for learning about African women’s history.

              • Epprecht, Marc. “Sexuality, Africa, History.” American Historical Review 114.5 (2009): 1258-1272.

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                Epprecht offers an up-to-date critical survey of the historiography on sexuality in Africa, with discussion of colonial attitudes, prostitution, female genital cutting, homosexuality, and HIV/AIDS.

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                • Guyer, Jane I. “Female Farming in Anthropology and African History.” In Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era. Edited by Micaela di Leonardo, 257–277. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

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                  This review article analyzes the historiography related to women’s agricultural work, crop and labor cycles, and the gendered division of labor. Guyer has a particular focus on Beti women’s productive labor in Cameroon and how that work changed after cocoa cultivation was introduced in the 1930s and became widespread in the 1940s.

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                • Hansen, Karen Tranberg, and Margaret Strobel. “Family History in Africa.” Trends in History 3.3–4 (1985): 127–149.

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                  A compilation of sources and discussion of topics including defining family and household, marriage, demographic change, legal and political issues, and religion and ideology. Though not explicitly about women, this essay provides a valuable bibliography on women’s history as viewed through the frame of family.

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                  • Hay, Margaret Jean. “Queens, Prostitutes, and Peasants: Historical Perspectives on African Women, 1971–1986.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 22.3 (1988): 431–447.

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                    This overview of publications on African women’s history discusses the shift of studies from heroines such as queens and market traders to victims such as prostitutes, domestic workers, and slaves, with a growth as well in studies of women’s agricultural and other productive work.

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                    • Hunt, Nancy Rose. “Placing African Women’s History and Locating Gender.” Social History 14 (1989): 359–379.

                      DOI: 10.1080/03071028908567748Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Discusses the historiographic shifts in African women’s history, looking at resistance, life histories, and imperialism.

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                      • Robertson, Claire. “Developing Economic Awareness: Changing Perspectives in Studies of African Women, 1976–1985.” Feminist Studies 13.1 (1987): 97–135.

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                        This overview of the first decade of publications on African women focuses on economic studies and how those new analyses changed ideas about precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial history. Robertson ends with a discussion of development and policy implications.

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                        • Strobel, Margaret. “African Women: Review Essay.” Signs 8.1 (1982): 109–131.

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                          One of the first review essays, its publication acknowledged the development of a new field, as the dominance of social anthropologists in the study of African women was matched by historians and others. With more than one hundred footnotes, this essay is a very useful source on earlier publications on women and labor, marriage and the law, politics, and religion.

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                          • Zeleza, Tiyambe. “Gender Biases in African Historiography.” In Engendering African Social Sciences. Edited by Ayesha M. Imam, Amina Mama, and Fatou Sow, 81–116. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 1997.

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                            A careful overview of history texts and mainstream publications on African history that reveals how women were ignored or marginalized. Zeleza provides page counts of coverage on women to substantiate his claims. He also includes an overview of contributions on African women’s history and suggestions for improving gender approaches to African history.

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                          Historiography and Methodology

                          Historians have written many articles about their research experiences and how those help them develop an analysis of African women’s history. Sheldon 2005 is an informative overview of the innovative methods scholars have used, and is found in an excellent collection of essays on African historical methodology more generally. Life history methodologies are the focus of Geiger 1996, Robertson 1983, and Sheldon 2010. Achebe 2002 and Musisi 1996 deal with the advantages and perils of writing as “insiders.” Berger 1994 and Hetherington 1993 examine interpretations of women in southern Africa.

                          • Achebe, Nwando. “Getting to the Source: Nwando Achebe—Daughter, Wife, and Guest—A Researcher at the Crossroads.” Journal of Women’s History 14.3 (2002): 9–31.

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                            Achebe writes as an African woman returning to research her ancestral community. She describes her efforts to find people and sources related to local history while discussing the ethical issues involved in collecting peoples’ history and writing about topics considered too controversial for outsiders to read.

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                            • Berger, Iris. “‘Beasts of Burden’ Revisited: Interpretations of Women and Gender in Southern African Societies.” In Paths toward the Past: African Historical Essays in Honor of Jan Vansina. Edited by Robert W. Harms, Joseph C. Miller, David S. Newbury, and Michele D. Wagner, 123–141. Atlanta: African Studies Association Press, 1994.

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                              Berger assesses the common assumption that southern African women were oppressed, and discusses a range of anthropological and historical studies of precapitalist southern Africa that claim women had status and authority within their societies. Status was as much a result of lineage position and age as of gender.

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                            • Geiger, Susan. “Tanganyikan Nationalism as ‘Women’s Work’: Life Histories, Collective Biography and Changing Historiography.” Journal of African History 37 (1996): 465–478.

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                              Geiger wrote several articles about the methodology of life histories in African women’s history; this one is the most comprehensive because she places women’s life histories within the larger context of Tanzanian history and studies of nationalism.

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                              • Hetherington, Penelope. “Women in South Africa: The Historiography in English.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 26.2 (1993): 242–269.

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                                Focusing on publications on South Africa, Hetherington surveys the history of writing about women’s history, discussing how the academic Marxist and neo-Marxist approaches allowed White scholars to write about Black women’s economic and psychological oppression.

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                                • Musisi, Nakanyike B. “A Personal Journey into Custom, Identity, Power, and Politics: Researching and Writing the Life and Times of Buganda’s Queen Mother Irene Drusilla Namaganda (1896–1957).” History in Africa 23 (1996): 369–385.

                                  DOI: 10.2307/3171949Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  Musisi’s personal account of her research into a difficult event in Uganda’s history, which required ingenuity on her part to gain access to informants.

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                                  • Robertson, Claire. “In Pursuit of Life Histories: The Problem of Bias.” Frontiers 7.2 (1983): 63–69.

                                    DOI: 10.2307/3346288Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    An early report on how to collect and use African women’s life histories.

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                                    • Sheldon, Kathleen. “Writing about Women: Approaches to a Gendered Perspective in African History.” In Writing African History. Edited by John Philips, 465–489. Rochester, NY: Rochester University Press, 2005.

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                                      Sheldon surveys the methods used by historians to discover information about women in African history, including archaeology, oral testimony, using marriage as a lens to a broader social understanding, and rethinking familiar narratives about work, urbanization, and resistance.

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                                    • Sheldon, Kathleen. “Creating an Archive of Working Women’s Oral Histories in Beira, Mozambique.” In Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources. Edited by Nupur Chaudhuri, Sherry J. Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry, 192–210. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

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                                      Sheldon describes how she learned about working women’s history in Beira from scarce and scattered documentary sources, and developed an archive of oral testimony which provided information not available elsewhere.

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                                    Primary Sources

                                    This section is divided into two subsections: one of Collections of African women’s historical writings, and the other of African women’s autobiographies (Narrative Accounts).

                                    Collections

                                    Access to documents about African women’s history has been difficult. This problem was eased by the efforts of the Feminist Press, which published Daymond, et al. 2003, Lihamba, et al. 2007, and Sutherland-Addy and Diaw 2005 (a fourth volume on North Africa is not included here) in a series called Women Writing Africa. These volumes are a major accomplishment in bringing together a wide range of women’s writings. “Writing” is broadly conceived in an effort to include as wide a range as possible, and beginning as early as possible in choosing items to include, so oral poetry and songs are also found among the hundreds of selections. Each volume has a similar structure, beginning with an introduction to place the materials in a larger context, and followed by a chronological presentation of brief excerpts by African women, each introduced by a biography of the author and background to the item. Many selections are translated from African languages for the first time, and others were found in archives or back issues of scarce newspapers. Two additional collections are Boyd and Mack 1997, which is focused on works by the West African 19th-century scholar Nana Asma’u, and Busby 1992, which includes African women of the diaspora as well as on the continent.

                                    • Boyd, Jean, and Beverly B. Mack, eds. and trans. Collected Works of Nana Asma’u, Daughter of Usman ’dan Fodiyo (1793–1864). East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1997.

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                                      An extensive and thoroughly annotated collection of Asma’u’s writings, this volume presents her Hausa and Fulfulde poems in English with maps, historical context, glossaries for place names and individuals, and an appendix of the Hausa materials in Roman script. The final two hundred pages of this 750-page book consist of facsimiles of the Arabic (ajami) texts.

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                                    • Busby, Margaret, ed. Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

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                                      A massive collection of women’s words from around the continent, most brief but all introduced with information about the authors. Stronger for fiction and poetry than historical documents, but a good source for background on women writers of African descent.

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                                    • Daymond, M. J., Dorothy Driver, Sheila Meintjes, Leloba Molema, Chiedza Musengezi, Margie Orford, and Nobantu Rasebotsa, eds. Women Writing Africa: The Southern Region. Women Writing Africa Project 1. New York: Feminist Press, 2003.

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                                      The Women Writing Africa volume that focuses on southern Africa is particularly strong for South Africa and also includes Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Though there are no entries from the Portuguese-speaking countries of the region, the sources include English translations of items that were originally in Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho, Shona, Setswana, and other local languages.

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                                    • Lihamba, Amandina, Fulata L. Moyo, M. M. Mulokozi, Naomi L Shitemi, and Saïda Yahya-Othman, eds. Women Writing Africa: The Eastern Region. Women Writing Africa Project 3. New York: Feminist Press, 2007.

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                                      The East Africa volume of the Women Writing Africa Project covers Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, with many sources originally in Swahili, Luganda, Chichewa, and other languages. The earliest item is a brief letter written in 1711 in Swahili, while the most recent piece is Wangari Maathai’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2004.

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                                    • Sutherland-Addy, Esi, and Aminata Diaw, eds. Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel. Women Writing Africa Project 2. New York: Feminist Press, 2005.

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                                      This volume includes both English- and French-speaking countries, with items from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. It was also published in a French edition, Des femmes écrivent l’Afrique: L’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel, edited by Esi Sutherland-Addy, Aminata Diaw, Judith Graves Miller, and Christiane Owusu-Sarpong (Paris: Karthala, 2007).

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                                    Narrative Accounts

                                    This section includes autobiographies by African women whose life stories illuminate specific time periods and places while providing a female perspective on the events they participated in, whether it was the intimacy of their families or the public world of politics. All the accounts included here take place in the 20th century, some extending into the early 21st century. Smith 1981 on Baba of Karo, Nigeria, was one of the earliest books to tell the life history of an African woman when it was originally published in 1954. It was followed by Shostak 1981 and Ndambuki and Robertson 2000; in each case the words of an African women are published after interpretation by a Western researcher. Collections of life stories (Clark 2010, Davison 1996, Mirza and Strobel 1989) bring the words of ordinary women in Ghana and Kenya to our attention. Books by the anticolonial activist Keita, the Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai are also welcome stories by women leaders; see Keita 1975, Sirleaf 2009, and Maathai 2006, respectively.

                                    • Clark, Gracia, ed. and trans. African Market Women: Seven Life Stories from Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

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                                      Clark collected these stories in Twi, and the women’s individual voices come through clearly in her English translation. Though all seven women were urban market women, their varied experiences emphasize the diversity of African women’s lives. They related stories of family hardship, economic challenge, and personal success, and the connections to global economic change are evident.

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                                    • Davison, Jean, ed. and trans. Voices from Mutira: Change in the Lives of Rural Gikuyu Women, 1910–1995. 2d ed. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1996.

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                                      This collection of seven life stories, presented in the women’s own words, illuminates the experiences and beliefs of Kikuyu women concerning marriage, initiation rites, family, and work.

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                                    • Keita, Aoua. Femme d’Afrique: La vie d’Aoua Keita. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1975.

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                                      Keita’s story of her life as a midwife, deputy during the colonial era, and anticolonial leader in West Africa is a rare autobiography by an African woman. It is not available in English, though it has been analyzed by Jane Turritin in “Aoua Kéita and the Nascent Women’s Movement in the French Soudan,” African Studies Review 36.1 (1993): 59–89.

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                                      • Maathai, Wangari. Unbowed: A Memoir. New York: Knopf, 2006.

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                                        Wangari Maathai was well known for her environmental activism in Kenya before winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. In this memoir she describes her rural childhood, education, and increasing involvement in politics as she worked to better the lives of women and to bring democracy and justice to Kenya.

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                                      • Mirza, Sarah, and Margaret Strobel, eds. and trans. Three Swahili Women: Life Histories from Mombasa, Kenya. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

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                                        The women who tell their stories in this collection illuminate women’s history along the Swahili coast, with details about slavery, colonialism, family, religion, and women’s associations.

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                                      • Ndambuki, Berida, and Claire C. Robertson. “We Only Come Here to Struggle”: Stories from Berida’s Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

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                                        Berida Ndambuki’s first-person story, as collected and edited by Robertson, is the account of a rural Kamba woman who became a successful market woman in Nairobi, Kenya. Robertson also made a video in conjunction with the book, titled Second Face: Berida’s Lives (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000). Her report on her childhood, initiation, marriage, motherhood, and urban and rural work brings a seldom-recorded voice to African history.

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                                      • Shostak, Marjorie. Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

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                                        Nisa was a woman who lived with the nomadic !Kung people in Botswana. Her life was recorded by Shostak and presented as a first-person narrative about Nisa’s life from childhood in the 1920s, through marriages, motherhood, sexuality, and aging. Shostak introduces each chapter with a brief contextual essay. She later published a follow-up, Return to Nisa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).

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                                      • Sirleaf, Ellen Johnson. This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

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                                        Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected as president of an African nation, tells the story of her Liberian childhood, introduction into politics, and involvement in the peace movement that ended a devastating civil war in the 1990s.

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                                      • Smith, Mary F. Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Muslim Hausa. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

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                                        A classic life story, told by Baba, a Muslim Hausa woman in northern Nigeria. As recorded and retold by Mary Smith, Baba recounted her childhood, marriages and family life, female friendships, agricultural work, and observations of colonial experiences, from 1890 to 1950. First published in 1954.

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                                      Edited Collections

                                      Some of the most innovative and important studies in African women’s history have appeared in edited collections. This section lists some key collections where readers can find articles on a range of relevant issues. Most collections focus on one topic, such as Hay and Wright 1982 on legal history, Hansen 1992 on domesticity, Sheldon 1996 on urban women, Cole and Thomas 2009 on love, and Burrill, et al. 2010 on domestic violence. Others are broader in their approach, such as Hodgson and McCurdy 2001 on colonial-era activism, and Cornwall 2005 and Cole, et al. 2007, which are both very useful collections on gender.

                                      • Burrill, Emily, Richard Roberts, and Elizabeth Thornberry, eds. Domestic Violence and the Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2010.

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                                        Though focusing on the seemingly narrow topic of domestic violence, the twelve articles in this volume analyze slavery in early 20th century French Soudan, murder trials in Kenya and Malawi, witchcraft in colonial Kenya, gender violence in Senegal and Ghana after independence, and the connection to international human rights concerns.

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                                      • Cole, Catherine M., Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan F. Miescher, eds. Africa After Gender? Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.

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                                        A groundbreaking collection that looks at gender, including women and men, and presents research on topics from sexuality in Uganda, gender relations in Yoruba theater, gender and women writers, and masculine identity in Nigeria and Ghana. Wide-ranging, yet focused on gender identity and historical change.

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                                      • Cole, Jennifer, and Lynn M. Thomas, eds. Love in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

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                                        This collection is an important contribution to women’s history in its attention to previously neglected aspects of African lives such as intimate desires and sexuality. Articles include an investigation into the rise of the “modern girl” in 1930s southern Africa, Hindi films in Zanzibar in the 1950s, a Kenyan advice columnist in the 1960s and 1970s, infidelity in Nigeria, and televised romance in Niger.

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                                      • Cornwall, Andrea, ed. Readings in Gender in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

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                                        A collection of twenty-eight articles, mostly previously published, on gender identity, work, religion, and politics, this volume brings together an impressive set of key articles by leading scholars, including many on history.

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                                      • Hansen, Karen Tranberg, ed. African Encounters with Domesticity. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

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                                        A collection of eleven articles that look at domestic service, mission education, women’s clubs, and childcare, mostly focused on colonial-era history.

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                                      • Hay, Margaret Jean, and Marcia Wright, eds. African Women and the Law: Historical Perspectives. Papers presented at a conference held at Columbia University in April 1979. Boston University Papers on Africa 7. Boston: Boston University, 1982.

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                                        This early collection of nine articles focused on legal history includes contributions on land sales in 18th-century Ethiopia, legal constraints on women in apartheid South Africa, marriage in colonial Lagos, and an influential article by Martin Chanock on the making of customary law in colonial Zambia.

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                                        • Hodgson, Dorothy L., and Sheryl A. McCurdy, eds. “Wicked” Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001.

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                                          These fifteen articles investigate colonial Africa and women’s activities as rebels and as people trying to survive through a variety of innovative actions. Topics include marriage in Abeokuta, Nigeria; women and agriculture in the Gambia; a rural rebellion in 1925 Nigeria; unmarried women in Asante, Ghana; urban developments in Uganda, Lesotho, and Tanzania; and many other thought-provoking events.

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                                        • Sheldon, Kathleen E., ed. Courtyards, Markets, City Streets: Urban Women in Africa. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.

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                                          An introduction to African women and city life; the contributions are divided into sections on politics, work, and family. Chapters address urban migration in Nigeria, polygyny in Senegal, housing in Zimbabwe, women factory owners in Kenya, and politics in South Africa, among other topics.

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                                        Journals

                                        There have been few journals devoted to African women’s studies. The examples listed here are the most readily available. Agenda and Ahfad Journal began in the 1980s and publish a range of topical articles on African women. Jenda often publishes themed issues, while the African Women’s Journal will focus on development.

                                        Early History with a Gender Focus

                                        Locating information about women in early African history is acknowledged as a difficult process. Nonetheless, with the use of new methodologies such as historical linguistics and reevaluating archaeological finds and early ethnographic accounts, it is possible to suggest women’s centrality to those societies. Schoenbrun 1998 and Saidi 2010 make the best use of historical linguistics, while Kent 1998, Nast 2005, and Wadley 1997 rely on archaeology. Berger 1995 focuses on evidence of women’s early religious leadership in eastern Africa, while Guy 1990 investigates southern African women more generally. Musisi 1991 writes about the history of royal women in Uganda.

                                        • Berger, Iris. “Fertility as Power: Spirit Mediums, Priestesses and the Pre-colonial State in Interlacustrine East Africa.” In Revealing Prophets: Prophecy in Eastern African History. Edited by David M. Anderson and Douglas H. Johnson, 65–82. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1995.

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                                          Portrays early evidence of African women’s religious activities as a source of social power that derived from the importance of fertility to the continuation of society, and suggests how the study of women’s leadership in religious rites and other practices provides insight into “women’s collective organization and their responses to the male-dominated social order.”

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                                        • Guy, Jeff. “Gender Oppression in Southern Africa’s Precapitalist Societies.” In Women and Gender in Southern Africa to 1945. Edited by Cherryl Walker, 33–47. London: James Currey, 1990.

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                                          An insightful overview of women in early southern African cattle-herding and agricultural societies, concluding that the societies were based on male appropriation of women’s labor.

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                                        • Kent, Susan Kingsley, ed. Gender in African Prehistory. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 1998.

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                                          Looking mainly at southern Africa, with one article each on East Africa and on Ghana, this collection makes available a wide range of archaeological research that begins to elucidate gender in early African communities, while recognizing the difficulty in determining gender from what is often neutral evidence.

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                                        • Musisi, Nakanyike. “Women, “Elite Polygyny,” and Buganda State Formation.” Signs 16.4 (1991): 757–786.

                                          DOI: 10.1086/494702Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Investigates the role of royal polygyny in developing the state of Buganda from the 15th century forward. She argues that the state was built by integrating separate clans, and while marriage was a key factor in that process, royal women lost political authority they had held in early eras.

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                                          • Nast, Heidi J. Concubines and Power: Five Hundred Years in a Northern Nigerian Palace. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

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                                            Uses an innovative approach based on archaeological studies of Hausa royal structures to demonstrate the important political and economic role of women who were affiliated with the ruling families, beginning in the 16th century. Women who were considered concubines were in charge of indigo dyeing and collected grain taxes, both key elements in the early economy of Kano.

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                                          • Saidi, Christine. Women’s Authority and Society in Early East-Central Africa. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2010.

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                                            Using historical linguistics, archaeology, and other sources, Saidi discusses women’s authority in female coalitions, initiation rites, female contributions to technology in pottery and agriculture, and sex and sexuality, arguing that women and their activities were central to early Central African social formations and continuity.

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                                          • Schoenbrun, David Lee. A Green Place, A Good Place: Agrarian Change, Gender, and Social Identity in the Great Lakes Region to the 15th Century. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998.

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                                            Schoenbrun uses historical linguistics, archaeology, and studies of the environment and ethnicity to write about very early societies in Central Africa. He includes suggestive material on women and gender, with evidence that women were political leaders and healers, while warning against reading modern social structures into the past.

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                                          • Wadley, Lyn, ed. Our Gendered Past: Archaeological Studies of Gender in Southern Africa. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1997.

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                                            An introduction to research on gender in early history in southern Africa. Despite the title, contributions also look at women’s writing at the 18th-century Cape, changing practices of pastoralists, and other topics from the early colonial period.

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                                          Early Colonial History, 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries

                                          Scholars have found suggestive material about the role of women in a range of African societies in the centuries when Europeans were just arriving on the continent. They have relied on written accounts left by (primarily) European men, but with careful reading those sources have yielded important information about women in Dahomey (Bay 1998), Kongo (Thornton 1998), Senegal (Brooks 2003), South Africa (Wells 1998), and Mozambique (Zimba 2003).

                                          • Bay, Edna. Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998.

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                                            This book is an important study of the much-mythologized kingdom of Dahomey, a region in present-day Benin, where women soldiers were characterized as “Amazons.” Bay focuses on the 18th and 19th centuries to describe the social and economic organization of the palace, and the changes that occurred as Europeans’ influence increased, with particular attention to women’s contributions as members of the royal household, economically active and politically involved.

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                                          • Brooks, George E. Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003.

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                                            Brooks’s book is an important study of women along the West African coast at the time of early European contact, with an emphasis on areas of Portuguese influence. Some women emerged as commercial and cultural brokers between African and European communities, and used their powerful positions to gain wealth and power.

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                                          • Thornton, John K. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511572791Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            This study of one woman’s conversion to Catholicism in the Kingdom of Kongo and her subsequent leadership of a short-lived religious movement illuminates Kongolese history and missionary experiences, and is suggestive about women’s lives and opportunities in late-17th-century West Central Africa.

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                                          • Wells, Julia C. “Eva’s Men: Gender and Power in the Establishment of the Cape of Good Hope, 1652–74.” Journal of African History 39 (1998): 417–437.

                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0021853798007300Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            A reevaluation of the life of Eva, or Krotoa, who worked for the Dutch settlers in South Africa in the 17th century and became a translator and intermediary between Dutch and African (Khoena) communities. Her life is emblematic of changing gender roles as a result of European colonization.

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                                            • Zimba, Benigna. Mulheres Invisíveis: O Género e as Políticas Comerciais no Sul de Moçambique, 1720–1830. Maputo, Mozambique: Promédia, 2003.

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                                              Focuses on specific aspects of women’s work in this study of trade in southern Mozambique, particularly the cultivation and marketing of rice and other crops and their activities in preparing food. This study is only available in Portuguese.

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                                              19th Century

                                              Studies about women in 19th-century Africa have often relied on sources written by European observers, who were not always reliable in either their observations or their conclusions. Works such as Bradford 1996, Hanretta 1998, White 1987, and others have used those documents to develop female-centered histories that ultimately relate a revised history more generally. An exception for that century is the work of Mack and Boyd 2000 on the Hausa scholar Nana Asma’u, who was a prolific author in her own right. Most of the current research is found in articles rather than monographs, with several contributions on women’s labor: Roberts 1984 on Mali, Eldredge 1991 on Lesotho, and Robertson 1997 on Kenya all look at economic history. Day 1994 offers an assessment of West African female chiefs.

                                              • Bradford, Helen. “Women, Gender and Colonialism: Rethinking the History of the British Cape Colony and Its Frontier Zones, c. 1806–70.” Journal of African History 37 (1996): 351–370.

                                                DOI: 10.1017/S0021853700035519Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                By reanalyzing two key events in 19th-century South Africa—a slave revolt in 1825 and a Xhosa millenarian movement featuring the prophet Nongqawuse—Bradford recenters women in those stories and demonstrates how marginalizing female experience had led to faulty histories more generally. She convincingly shows how earlier studies had ignored or elided evidence that featured women’s perspective.

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                                                • Day, Lynda. “The Evolution of Female Chiefship during the Late Nineteenth-Century Wars of the Mende.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 27.3 (1994): 481–503.

                                                  DOI: 10.2307/220756Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Day argues that Mende women served in positions of public responsibility and authority in Sierra Leone before the imposition of colonial rule, but their positions of leadership were transformed from being located in the family and as religious adepts to that of political chiefdom and military alliance during the late 19th-century wars of expansion.

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                                                  • Eldredge, Elizabeth A. “Women in Production: The Economic Role of Women in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho.” Signs 16.4 (1991): 707–731.

                                                    DOI: 10.1086/494700Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Provides a sensitive discussion of women’s agricultural work and their contribution to the expansion and success of the Basotho economy of the 19th century.

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                                                    • Hanretta, Sean. “Women, Marginality and the Zulu State: Women’s Institutions and Power in the Early Nineteenth Century.” Journal of African History 39.3 (1998): 309–415.

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                                                      A new look at Zulu history. It argues that control over women during the increasing stratification of the Zulu state in the early 19th century was a major factor in women’s lives and resulted in a dramatic increase in the role of women as healers and diviners.

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                                                      • Mack, Beverly B., and Jean Boyd. One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’u, Scholar and Scribe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

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                                                        An important biography of a 19th-century educator and poet whose life alters many assumptions about Muslim women, and whose legacy continues to influence women in Nigeria. This book updates an earlier study by Jean Boyd, The Caliph’s Sister: Nana Asma’u (1793–1865) Teacher, Poet and Islamic Leader (London: Frank Cass, 1989).

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                                                      • Roberts, Richard. “Women’s Work and Women’s Property: Household Social Relations in the Maraka Textile Industry of the Nineteenth Century.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26.2 (1984): 229–250.

                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500010884Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        A nuanced discussion of the changing gender division of labor in cloth production in the French Soudan (in the area that is now Mali).

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                                                        • Robertson, Claire C. “Gender and Trade Relations in Central Kenya in the Late Nineteenth Century.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 30.1 (1997): 23–47.

                                                          DOI: 10.2307/221545Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Women had a recognized role in local and long-distance trade in Kenya. Robertson provides a detailed analysis of the organization of that trade and changes encountered as British colonialism had an increasing impact.

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                                                          • White, E. Frances. Sierra Leone’s Settler Women Traders: Women on the Afro-European Frontier. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987.

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                                                            White’s study challenges conventional research that ignored African women’s key position in dealing with European settlers and their own African communities in the 19th century. Based on archival documents including letters written by African women, and extensive interviews with market women in Freetown, she places women at the center of the African encounter with Europeans.

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                                                          Slavery

                                                          Studies of African women and slavery have expanded ideas about gender and enslavement. In Africa most slaves were female, a reflection in part of their agricultural skill and their reproductive abilities. Studies have looked at a range of experiences, including enslaved women in African communities, their treatment in the slave trade, female traders as slave traders and owners, and the post-emancipation experience. Collections that provide an overview and a range of historical events include Robertson and Klein 1997 and Campbell, et al. 2007, while Wright 1993 and Scully 1997 more closely analyze specific situations in East Africa and South Africa.

                                                          • Campbell, Gwyn, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, eds. Women and Slavery. Vol. 1, Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007.

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                                                            The introduction by Miller and an essay by Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch provide important overviews, while individual contributions discuss a range of societies, including Swahili, Cape Colony and Zulu in South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Ethiopia, and the French Soudan. The topics include women in the slave trade, women traders, freed women, family life, and more.

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                                                          • Robertson, Claire C., and Martin A. Klein, eds. Women and Slavery in Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1997.

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                                                            Originally published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1983, this is an essential set of essays that discuss a range of places and time periods, including Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, historical Dahomey, and more. The introductory essay by the editors provides a clear overview of important issues and findings.

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                                                          • Scully, Pamela. Liberating the Family? Gender and British Slave Emancipation in the Rural Western Cape, South Africa, 1823–1853. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1997.

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                                                            Scully’s book, though narrowly focused in time and place, discusses important issues of labor, marriage and family, and changing racial and gender identities, in the process expanding ideas about slavery beyond the scope of free and unfree labor.

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                                                          • Wright, Marcia. Strategies of Slaves and Women: Life-Stories from East/Central Africa. New York: Lilian Barber, 1993.

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                                                            Wright uses a series of life histories to demonstrate women’s experience of slavery at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century in East Africa, emphasizing their vulnerability and their skills in surviving and escaping to freedom.

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                                                          Colonial History in the 20th Century

                                                          The available sources on women’s history dramatically increase in the 20th century, and the quantity of published scholarship also expands. This section lists sources that focus on women’s experiences under European colonialism. Historians have written about marriage (Allman and Tashjian 2000), labor (Byfield 2002, Schmidt 1992, White 1990), social organizations (Strobel 1979), and reproductive issues (Hunt 1999, Kaler 2003). The Allman, et al. 2002 collection of essays is a fascinating introduction to recent research and analysis.

                                                          • Allman, Jean, Susan Geiger, and Nakanyike Musisi, eds. Women in African Colonial Histories. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

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                                                            An important collection of thirteen chapters, with articles on colonial encounters in Mozambique, missions in Zimbabwe, midwives in French West Africa, marriage in Ghana, migration in South Africa, nationalism in Guinea, and more. The variety of experiences of how women negotiated their survival in changing times demonstrates that there is no single “African woman.”

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                                                          • Allman, Jean, and Victoria Tashjian. “I Will Not Eat Stone”: A Women’s History of Colonial Asante. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000.

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                                                            This study of Asante women in colonial Ghana focuses on marriage, childrearing, and gendered labor in cocoa cultivation, as women confronted changes brought by mission education, an expanding economy based on cash cropping, and British colonial political changes. This book brought balance to a more familiar Asante history that focused on male politics.

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                                                          • Byfield, Judith. The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Dyers in Abeokuta (Nigeria), 1890–1940. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.

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                                                            By focusing on Yoruba women who worked as indigo cloth dyers and traders, Byfield demonstrates how these ordinary women interacted with the colonial authorities, shifted their practices in order to survive, and made creative contributions to design, commerce, and women’s authority.

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                                                          • Hunt, Nancy Rose. A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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                                                            An impressive study of women in the Congo and their experience of missionary medicine, Hunt centers her study on pregnancy and childbirth while raising concerns about cultural differences, technological change, health and disease, violence and African bodies, and medical research.

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                                                          • Kaler, Amy. Running after Pills: Politics, Gender, and Contraception in Colonial Zimbabwe. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003.

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                                                            A close study of Zimbabwean ideas of sexuality, fertility, and reproduction, which brings new insights into the history of state control of women’s bodies, African responses to the introduction of birth control, and women’s perceptions of the gains and losses associated with new fertility technologies.

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                                                          • Schmidt, Elizabeth. Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870–1939. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1992.

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                                                            A detailed study of Shona women and their experiences under colonialism in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), with a focus on the centrality of their agricultural work at the end of the 19th century, their marginalization as British colonial power expanded, the impact of missionaries on girls’ education and religious beliefs, and women’s entry into performing domestic labor for European settlers.

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                                                          • Strobel, Margaret. Muslim Women in Mombasa, 1890–1975. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

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                                                            Winner of the Herskovits Prize (African Studies Association) in 1980, Strobel’s book looks at ways in which women in coastal Swahili communities in Kenya have organized themselves and their communities under colonialism, as Western education was introduced and work and politics shifted. Her focus on dance societies and cultural “improvement” associations introduced an analysis of women’s organizing that had been previously overlooked.

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                                                          • White, Luise. The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

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                                                            A study of women’s options in urban Kenya under colonialism. It introduced an analysis of prostitution as labor, and as a choice for women that allowed them to earn a living in restricted circumstances. Women often provided lodging and meals as well as sexual favors, and their work affected such urban issues as housing, crime, and personal relationships.

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                                                          Nationalism and Anticolonial Resistance

                                                          Women were involved in nationalist movements across the continent; the sources listed here attempt to provide a geographic sample of the kinds of activism that women engaged in to resist colonialism. South Africa’s struggle to end the racial segregation of apartheid is very well documented, though only one article, Wells 1983, is included here; Wells’ research suggests the involvement of women for many decades. Other sources discuss nationalist movements (Geiger 1997, Presley 1992, Urdang 1979), women’s organizations (Denzer 1992, Mba 1982), and specific events spearheaded by women (Shanklin 1990, Van Allen 1976, Wells 1983).

                                                          • Denzer, LaRay. “Gender and Decolonization: A Study of Three Women in West African Public Life.” In People and Empires in African History: Essays in Memory of Michael Crowder. Edited by J. F. Ade Ajayi and J. D. Y. Peel, 217–236. London: Longman, 1992.

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                                                            Interweaves a history of women in West African politics with profiles of three women who were innovators and activists: Mabel Dove, Aoua Keita, and Wuraola Adepeju Esan. These women have remained relatively unknown, although each was elected to political office during the colonial era.

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                                                          • Geiger, Susan. TANU Women: Gender and Culture in the Making of Tanganyikan Nationalism, 1955–1965. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1997.

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                                                            A study of the leadership activities of illiterate Muslim women in Dar es Salaam. It fundamentally changed the view that the Tanzanian anticolonial movement was led solely by men who were products of Christian mission education. The story switches between a narrative history of that era, the particular stories of individual women, and an extended life history of Bibi Titi Mohammed.

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                                                          • Mba, Nina Emma. Nigerian Women Mobilized: Women’s Political Activity in Southern Nigeria, 1900–1965. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1982.

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                                                            One of the earliest books to investigate women’s role in precolonial Yoruba, Igbo, and other southern Nigerian societies, in order to understand why women resisted colonialism. Chapters focus on the Aba Women’s War of 1929, other protest movements, women’s organizations in Abeokuta, their political activities in Lagos, and their contributions to the anticolonial political parties of the 1950s.

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                                                          • Presley, Cora Ann. Kikuyu Women, the Mau Mau Rebellion, and Social Change in Kenya. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992.

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                                                            Provides gendered historical context for the much-studied Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, showing how Kikuyu women had been involved in trade and leadership, worked on coffee plantations, were involved in labor disputes, faced new ideas as a result of the missionary introduction of education and Christianity, and worked in nationalist organizations in the decades prior to the 1950s rebellion.

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                                                          • Shanklin, Eugenia. “Anlu Remembered: The Kom Women’s Rebellion of 1958–61.” Dialectical Anthropology 15.2–3 (1990): 159–181.

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                                                            Women in Cameroon resisted colonial attempts to alter their accustomed agricultural labor, and they resisted by marching on the colonial offices and forming women’s organizations. Shanklin writes about the precolonial history in order to situate the resistance of the mid-20th century. It was reprinted in Women and Revolution: Global Expressions, edited by M. J. Diamond (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 1998), pp. 133–171.

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                                                            • Urdang, Stephanie. Fighting Two Colonialisms: Women in Guinea-Bissau. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979.

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                                                              Urdang traveled with the rebels who were fighting to end Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau. Her portrayal of women’s key involvement and profiles of women leaders in the struggle remains a singular report of women and nationalism.

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                                                            • Van Allen, Judith. “‘Aba Riots’ or Igbo ‘Women’s War’? Ideology, Stratification, and the Invisibility of Women.” In Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change. Edited by Nancy Hafkin and Edna Bay, 59–85. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976.

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                                                              An analysis of a key event in Nigerian history and a classic study of how Igbo women used traditional methods of social control and influence to respond in 1929 to the economic and political marginalization they faced under British colonialism. The chapter title and discussion demonstrate how history is written by those involved.

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                                                            • Wells, Julia. “Why Women Rebel: A Comparative Study of South African Women’s Resistance in Bloemfontein (1913) and Johannesburg (1958).” Journal of Southern African Studies 10.1 (1983): 55–70.

                                                              DOI: 10.1080/03057078308708067Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Women in South Africa began resisting attempts by the white-controlled government to limit their movement from an early date. Their refusal to carry passes in 1913 was successful, while the better-known resistance in 1958 was not; Wells analyzes the different circumstances that led to different outcomes.

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                                                              Post-Independence History

                                                              Publications on African women following independence have tended to be less historical in orientation, with most sources focused on development issues and current political activities. Studies of women and politics (Hale 1996; Hassim 2006; Tripp 2000; Tripp, et al. 2009) offer suggestive insights into women’s involvement in modern African events. Kevane 2004 and Snyder and Tadesse 1995 discuss women and development within historical frameworks. Stamp 1991 and Alidou 2005 investigate women’s interaction with modern society from different ethnic and religious perspectives.

                                                              • Alidou, Ousseina D. Engaging Modernity: Muslim Women and the Politics of Agency in Postcolonial Niger. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.

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                                                                An innovative study of the intersections of religion, politics, and women’s political agency, using women’s poetry, folklore, and other sources, she discusses modernity, ethnicity, artistic endeavors, and education as factors in their political involvement. Brief biographies and stories are interwoven with the analytical narrative.

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                                                              • Hale, Sondra. Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.

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                                                                An analysis of the conflict between socialist politics and growing Islamist influences in Sudan, and the impact on women. Hale also discusses the role of women in the socialist party and in politics more generally.

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                                                              • Hassim, Shireen. Women’s Organizations and Democracy in South Africa: Contesting Authority. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

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                                                                An important assessment of women’s political activism in post-apartheid South Africa, discusses women and the African National Congress, other political parties, and women in the national bureaucracy.

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                                                              • Kevane, Michael. Women and Development in Africa: How Gender Works. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2004.

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                                                                A lucid account of development economics and women in Africa. Chapters on land tenure, rural labor, education, marriage, and specific projects focused on women provide case studies to illustrate the abstract idea of development and its impact.

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                                                              • Snyder, Margaret C., and Mary Tadesse. African Women and Development: A History, the Story of the African Training and Research Centre for Women of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. London: Zed, 1995.

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                                                                In this book focused on the history of the UN’s African Training and Research Centre for Women, based in Addis Ababa, Snyder and Tadesse present insights into the trajectory of international development concerns and African women’s involvement in the development project.

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                                                              • Stamp, Patricia. “Burying Otieno: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity in Kenya.” Signs 16.4 (1991): 808–845.

                                                                DOI: 10.1086/494704Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                A provocative analysis of the continuing strength of ethnic identification. When leading Kenyan politician S. M. Otieno died in 1987, his rural kin claimed burial rights over his body in opposition to the wishes of Wambui Otieno, his widow, who was following the nonethnic ideals she and her husband had espoused.

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                                                                • Tripp, Aili Mari. Women and Politics in Uganda. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.

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                                                                  Discusses the historical background of Ugandan women’s political activity. It looks at women in the National Resistance Movement, and local conflicts over a health center, market access, and a housing project as windows into women’s organizing efforts and political involvement more generally.

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                                                                • Tripp, Aili Mari, Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga, and Alice Mungwa. African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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                                                                  Discusses women’s political activities in the postcolonial era of democratization, legislative demands, elections, and bureaucracy. The authors use case studies of Mozambique, Uganda, and Cameroon as evidence of women’s concerns, the organizations they have formed, and the issues in which they have engaged.

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                                                                Case Study Monographs

                                                                This section includes some important books on African women’s history that are case studies of particular places, including marriage in Niger (Cooper 1997), politics and work in Mozambique (Sheldon 2002), and religion in Congo-Brazzaville (Martin 2009). Kyomuhendo and McIntosh 2006 looks at women’s work in Uganda, Mann 1985 studies marriage in colonial Lagos, Nigeria, Robertson 1984 writes about work in Accra, Ghana, and Thomas 2003 analyzes reproductive history in Kenya. Because of the time span and topics covered, they do not fit neatly into the chronological sections of this bibliography.

                                                                • Cooper, Barbara. Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger, 1900–1989. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1997.

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                                                                  Uses changing marital experiences among Muslim residents of the city of Maradi as a lens to see 20th-century history in Niger, with insights into legal history, economic change, relations between men and women, and religious practices.

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                                                                • Kyomuhendo, Grace Bantebya, and Marjorie Keniston McIntosh. Women, Work and Domestic Virtue in Uganda, 1900–2003. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006.

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                                                                  Discusses the changing experience of women’s work in Uganda, including the colonial era, women’s education in mission schools, changing work opportunities, and post-independence politics, with a focus on the concept of “domestic virtue” as a unifying theme for Ugandan women who sought a respected and respectable role in their communities. Winner of the Aidoo-Snyder Prize from the African Studies Association Women’s Caucus in 2007.

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                                                                • Mann, Kristin. Marrying Well: Marriage, Status and Social Change among the Educated Elite in Colonial Lagos. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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                                                                  A study of the conflict between African marital practices and expectations, and newly introduced Christian marriages in Nigeria from 1880 to 1915. The rising elite had been educated in the missions and had to choose between polygyny and monogamy, different conceptions of women’s domestic role, and distinct legal systems regulating marriage and divorce. The conclusion emphasizes how elite urban women influenced their changing society.

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                                                                • Martin, Phyllis M. Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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                                                                  Investigates the introduction of Catholicism in Congo-Brazzaville in the 19th century, focusing on the role of women, and follows their story until the early 21st century, when women comprised three-quarters of Roman Catholic Church members.

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                                                                • Robertson, Claire C. Sharing the Same Bowl: A Socioeconomic History of Women and Class in Accra, Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

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                                                                  Based on research conducted in the 1970s, Robertson examines changes in marriage, market work, education, and fertility. She concludes that women face particular obstacles related to class position that make them vulnerable to the demands of capitalism. The life histories of four individual women are presented in between the analytical chapters.

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                                                                • Sheldon, Kathleen. Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.

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                                                                  Covers over a century of history, discussing women’s agricultural work, the impact of colonialism, women’s role in the anticolonial liberation struggle, urbanization and factory work, and socialist politics at the end of the 20th century.

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                                                                • Thomas, Lynn M. Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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                                                                  An important study of the history of state interventions into women’s sexuality and fertility, from colonial concerns about female genital cutting through Kenyan girls’ interest in continuing with traditional initiation rites, to the late 20th century and new official worries about single mothers, with insights into legal history, religious change, and the politics of family formation.

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