Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century

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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. This work 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 pre-colonial system through British colonial administration to inclusion in the modern Nigerian nation. The book 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 pre-colonial 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 should be revised.