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.

chapter |6 pages


part One|50 pages

Nineteenth-Century Women

chapter 1|12 pages

Peasant Women

chapter 2|9 pages

Slave Women

chapter 4|11 pages

Powerful Women

chapter 5|12 pages

Female Identity and Culture

part Two|29 pages

From the Country to the City

chapter 6|14 pages

Rural Women and Colonialism

chapter 7|13 pages

Women and Urban Migration

part Three|53 pages

Women in the City from Colonization to Independence

chapter 8|5 pages

The Urban Condition

chapter 9|15 pages

Women and Trade

chapter 10|8 pages

Domestic Service

chapter 12|7 pages

Women and Factory Work

part Four|94 pages

Women and Modern Life

chapter 14|16 pages

Women and School

chapter 16|4 pages

Women and Politics: Delay in Zaire

chapter 18|31 pages

Sexuality and Emancipation

chapter |4 pages

Conclusion: The Future