Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Term 1 Week 9: Gendering the City

This week we will examine the gendering of urban space in colonial Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We will examine how access to work, housing and urban facilities was differentiated along gendered lines; the challenges facing female migrants; and how women and girls sought to subvert racialised and gendered norms and the control of men and colonial authorities.

Core Reading

Diana Jeater, ‘No Place for a Woman: Gwelo Town, Southern Rhodesia, 1894-1920’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (2000), pp. 29-42.

Teresa Barnes, ‘“Am I a Man?”: Gender and the Pass Laws in Urban Colonial Zimbabwe, 1930-80’, African Studies Review, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Apr., 1997), pp. 59-81.

George Chauncey Jr., ‘The Locus of Reproduction: Women's Labour in the Zambian Copperbelt, 1927-1953’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 7, 2 (Apr., 1981), pp. 135-164. 

Deborah Gaitskell, '"Christian Compounds for Girls": church hostels for African women in Johannesburg, 1907–1970', Journal of Southern African Studies 6, 1 (1979), pp. 44-69.

Seminar Questions

1. Were African colonial cities predominantly male spaces?

2. How did gender and race intersect in shaping access to urban spaces and resources?

3. To what extent could women and girls carve out a place for themselves in colonial urban spaces?

4. What sources can historians use to find women and girls in southern Africa's urban past?

Primary Sources

'Life Narratives of Crossroads Women': this is a collection of oral histories with women in Cape Town. Interviews were conducted by Koni Benson in 2005. The full collection is available via the JSTOR Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa collection.

Life Narratives of Crossroads Women Essay

Interview with Daisy Bara

Interview with Mama Adelaide Mene

Interview with Mama Mkondweni

Interview with Maurine Sogo Hamse

Interview with Selina Dasi

Further Reading

T. Barnes, We Women Worked So Hard: Gender, Urbanization and Social Reproduction in Colonial Harare, Zimbabwe, 1930-56 (Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann, 1999).

T. Barnes and E. Win, To Live A Better Life: Oral History of Women in Harare, 1930-1960 (Harare: Baobab Books, 1989).

Teresa Barnes, “So That A Labourer Could Live With His Family’: Overlooked Factors in Social and Economic Strife in Urban Colonial Zimbabwe, 1945-52,” Journal of Southern African Studies 21:1 (1995)

T. Barnes, ‘The Fight for Control of African Women's Mobility in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1900-1939’, Signs 17 (1992), pp. 586-608.

Barbara M. Cooper, ‘Women and Gender’, in John Parker and Richard Reid (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History (Oxford, 2013).

Bill Freund, The African City: A History (Cambridge, 2007).

Susan Geiger, Nakanyike Musisi & Jean Marie Allman (eds.), Women in African Colonial Histories (Bloomington, 2002).

Rebekah Lee, African Women and Apartheid: Migration and Settlement in Urban South Africa (2009)

Jane Parpart, Sexuality and Power on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1926-1964 (Boston, 1986)

K. Sheldon, (ed.), Courtyards, Markets, City Streets: Urban Women in Africa (Boulder/Col. 1996).

E. Schmidt, ‘Negotiated Spaces and Contested Terrain: Men, Women, and the Law in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1890-1939’, Journal of Southern African Studies 16, (1990), pp. 622-648.

Elizabeth Schmidt, Peasants, Traders, & Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870-1939 (1992)

H. S. Simelane, ‘The State, Chiefs, and the Control of Female Migration in Colonial Swaziland, c. 1930s-1950’, Journal of African History, 45 (2004), pp. 102-25.

Michael O. West, 'Liquor and Libido: "Joint Drinking" and the Politics of Sexual Control in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1920s-1950s', Journal of Social History, 30, 3 (1997), pp. 645-667.