The Métis of Senegal: Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa

By Hilary Jones | Go to book overview

5
From Outpost to Empire

In March 1887, the Mothers of Families sent a letter to the governor of Senegal followed by a second letter to Jean Jauréguiberry, the naval minister and former governor of the colony. The women wrote to inform the governor that “public peace and good order have been put at peril” by the only political newspaper in the colony, Le Réveil du Senegal. The women complained about the newspaper’s attack on key members of the political elite and expressed their concern that the newspaper, “guided uniquely by hatred, jealousy and lowly rancor,” took advantage of the lack of competition from any other newspaper. They continued:

This sheet wrapping itself in the cloak of republicanism, crowds odiously on
the feet of all the principles that made the glory of the Government of the
Republic…it has dragged in the mud our best intentioned administrators,
our judges and the most integral, you yourself, Mr. Governor, despite all
your devotion to the colony, have not been saved. Today it is all the Senegalese
families that it attacks and that it looks to dishonor by slander, scandal and
lies. In the name of the protection that honest people have the right to ex-
pect from their government, in the name of grossly insulted and violated re-
publican principles, we ask you to make the Minister of the Marine cogni-
zant of the situation. We ask you to call upon his old memories of Senegal
where his memory remains still popular in our colonies still under the re-
gime of decree. We wish from the bottom of our heart that he would bring an
energetic remedy to this intolerable situation.1

As upstanding wives, mothers, and widows, the women who authored these letters relied on their moral authority within the European community to demand action in the public sphere despite the fact that they could not vote or hold public office.

This letter appeared at a critical moment in Senegal’s history when French forces embarked on the final phase of conquest in Sin and Saloum

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