African Encounters with Domesticity

By Karen Tranberg Hansen | Go to book overview

7 "Educating Eve": The Women's Club Movement and Political Consciousness among Rural African Women in Southern Rhodesia, 1950-1980

Sita Ranchod-Nilsson

[T]he pace of social advancement of many Africans will not be set by themselves but by their wives. It may not be as fast as many would like to see it, since Eve is essentially a traditionalist.

J. Holleman ( National Archives of Zimbabwe, 1958)

[Wlithout the women's clubs, we wouldn't have been able to do what we did during the war.

Interview with an African woman in Wedza, January 23, 1989

Scholarly investigations rarely address African women's experiences with colonial notions of domesticity in relation to the political upheaval of nationalist movements or liberation struggles. Yet, the two quotations above suggest that ideas about domesticity had very political purposes for colonial settlers and governments on the one hand, and for African women on the other.

After World War II homecraft clubs for African women flourished throughout colonial Africa. 1 Southern Rhodesia was no exception to this colonial trend of promoting Western ideals of domesticity among African women. The clubs began meeting in the 1940s and shortly after formed several national organizations. The Federation of African Women's Clubs (FAWC) was the largest of these homecraft organizations with a membership of 23,000 at the height of its popularity in 1975 ( Rhodesia Herald 21 June 78)). Like homecraft clubs throughout

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