The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / Women's Studies


Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Catherine M. Coles and Beverly Mack

"The best scholarly collection to date on women in Africa."—Jan Vansina

The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, with populations in Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana. Their long history of city-states and Islamic caliphates, their complex trading economies, and their cultural traditions have attracted the attention of historians, political economists, linguists, and anthropologists. The large body of scholarship on Hausa society, however, has assumed the subordination of women to men.

Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century refutes the notion that Hausa women are pawns in a patriarchal Muslim society. The contributors, all of whom have done field research in Hausaland, explore the ways Hausa women have balanced the demands of Islamic expectations and Western choices as their society moved from a precolonial system through British colonial administration to inclusion in the modern Nigerian nation. This volume examines the roles of a wide variety of women, from wives and workers to political activists and mythical figures, and it emphasizes that women have been educators and spiritual leaders in Hausa society since precolonial times. From royalty to slaves and concubines, in traditional Hausa cities and in newer towns, from the urban poor to the newly educated elite, the "invisible women" whose lives are documented here demonstrate that standard accounts of Hausa society must be revised.

Scholars of Hausa and neighboring West African societies will find in this collection a wealth of new material and a model of how research on women can be integrated with general accounts of Hausa social, religious, political, and economic life. For students and scholars looking at gender and women's roles cross-culturally, this volume provides an invaluable African perspective.

Catherine M. Coles, formerly assistant professor of anthropology and African studies at Dartmouth College, is currently a research associate in the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Beverly Mack is a professor of African studies in the Department of African and African American studies and a courtesy professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas. She is the author of several books including, Muslim Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song.

Inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734.

cover of the Hausa Women book is blood red with a black and white photo of an African woman pounding something is a mortor and pestle. She is smiling, and barefoot.

November 1991 
LC: 91-014182 DT
310 pp.    6 x 9   
24 halftones, 1 map

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