Over the last century, the social and economic roles played by African women have evolved dramatically. Long confined to home and field, overlooked by their menfolk and missionaries alike, African women worked, thought, dreamed, and struggled. They migrated to the cities, invented new jobs, and activated the so-called informal economy to become Africa's economic and social focal point. As a result, despite their lack of education and relatively low status, women are now Africa's best hope for the future. This sweeping and innovative book is the first to reconstruct the full history of women in sub-Saharan Africa. Tracing the lot of African women from the eve of the colonial period to the present, Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch explores the stages and forms of women's collective roles as well as their individual emancipation through revolts, urban migrations, economic impacts, social claims, political strength, and creativity. Comparing case studies drawn from throughout the region, she sheds light on issues ranging from gender to economy, politics, society, and culture. Utilizing an impressive array of sources, she highlights broad general patterns without overlooking crucial local variations. With its breadth of coverage and clear analysis of complex questions, this book is destined to become a standard text for scholars and students alike.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Nineteenth-Century Women -- Peasant Women -- Slave Women -- Women and Trade at the Dawn of Colonialism -- Powerful Women -- Female Identity and Culture -- From the Country to the City -- Rural Women and Colonialism -- Women and Urban Migration -- Women in the City from Colonization to Independence -- The Urban Condition -- Women and Trade -- Domestic Service -- Prostitution: From "Free" Women to Women with AIDs -- Women and Factory Work -- Woman and Poverty: The Future of Female Informal-Sector Employment -- Women and Modern Life -- Women and School -- Women and Politics: Resistance and Action in West Africa -- Women and Politics: Delay in Zaire -- Women and Politics: The Wars for National Liberation -- Sexuality and Emancipation -- Conclusion: The Future