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HSRC Press :: Women in South African History

Women in South African History
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Women in South African History

Basus'iimbokodo, Bawel'imilambo / They remove boulders and cross rivers

Nomboniso Gasa (eds)

Format160mm x 110mm
ISBN 100-7969-2174-1
ISBN 13978-07969-2174-1
Publish Year2007
DescriptionRelated ProductsEmail To A FriendProduct RatingCustomer Reviews

Women in South African History :: Basus'iimbokodo, Bawel'imilambo / They remove boulders and cross riversFree DownloadWomen in South African History :: Basus'iimbokodo, Bawel'imilambo / They remove boulders and cross rivers


In this fascinating collection, full of different textures, narratives and nuances, sixteen authors have begun to tackle the task of writing South Africa’s history from an overtly feminist perspective, giving readers an opportunity to understand and reflect on debates about real women’s power in completely new and fresh ways.

Taking readers on an eclectic journey through the major themes of South African history from pre-colonial and pre-Union periods, through the terrors and struggles of the apartheid era to the present time, the authors have chosen not to be polite, but to interrogate issues, take them apart, turn things upside down. Readers are treated to a complete revision of the stories of Sarah Bartman and Xhosa prophetess Nongquawse; given a unique insight into the lives of slave women, the role of women in the early frontier wars, women’s political struggles in the twentieth century, and on into the present with essays that deal with women’s agency and current forms of protest and self representation.

An exciting combination of seasoned and new voices, the book is intelligent, subtle, magisterial and unforgettable.

CD also available with book.


• FOREWORD (Dr Pallo Zweledinga Jordan, Minister of Arts and Culture)
• INTRODUCTION: Basus’iimbokodo, bawel’imilambo, new freedoms and new challenges, a continuing dialogue (Nomboniso Gasa)

Women in the pre-colonial and pre-Union periods

• Chiefly women and women’s leadership in pre-colonial southern Africa (Jennifer Weir)
• ‘Like three tongues in one mouth’: tracing the elusive lives of slave women in (slavocratic) South Africa (Pumla Dineo Gqola)
• Not a Nongqawuse story: an anti-heroine in historical perspective (Helen Bradford)
• Women and gender in the South African War, 1899–1902 (Elizabeth van Heyningen)

Women in early- to mid-twentieth century South Africa
• ‘Let them build more gaols’ (Nomboniso Gasa)
• Testimonies and transitions: women negotiating the rural and urban in the mid-20th century (Luli Callinicos)
• Generations of struggle: trade unions and the roots of feminism, 1930–1960 (Iris Berger)
• Feminisms, motherisms, patriarchies and women’s voices in the 1950s (Nomboniso Gasa)

War: armed and mass struggles as gendered experiences
• Women in the ANC-led underground (Raymond Suttner)
•  ‘Another mother for peace’: women and peace building in South Africa, 1983–2003 (Jacklyn Cock)
• ‘We were not afraid’: the role of women in the 1980’s township uprising in the Eastern Cape (Janet Cherry)
• Women, labour and resistance: case studies from the Port Elizabeth/Uitenhage area, 1972–1994 (Pat Gibbs)

The 1990s: new identities, new victories, new struggles
• Naked women’s protest, July 1990: ‘We won’t fuck for houses’ (Sheila Meintjes)
• Loving in a time of hopelessness’: on township women’s subjectivities in a time of HIV/AIDS (Nthabiseng Motsemme)
• Invisible lives, inaudible voices? The social conditions of migrant women in Johannesburg (Caroline Kihato)
• Ambiguity is my middle name: a research diary (Yvette Abrahams)

About the Author/s
Nomboniso Gasa works on gender policy analysis. She is a feminist and is passionate about women’s roles in history. Gasa has written and published on gender equality issues, African feminism and related issues.  She has also done work on political transition in Nigeria and edited Democracy in Nigeria: Continuing Dialogues for Nation-building.  Her current focus is on the Making of a Man in Xhosa society, which is a historic and feminist critique of cultural practice and its continued and changing meanings.

Extract of review by Kathleen Sheldon (University of California, Los Angeles) in African Book Publishing Record, Vol. XXXIV/2/2008 pp 98-99:

"Without discussing each chapter in greater depth, it can be noted that overall, the authors share an agenda to draw more attention to women’s long history of resistance in a variety of locales and their leadership in their communities. Some authors also consciously discuss methodology and historiography, and suggest that as feminist historians they must still work against more conventional historical tales that keep women on the margins. ... Both of these volumes [Representation and Reality and Women in South African History] add valuable information and analysis to the burgeoning arena of South African women’s history. They will be read with appreciation. The lack of an index in the volume edited by Gasa is offset by the inclusion of a compact disc with searchable files of the entire text. These books are recommended for university libraries with holdings on women’s history and African studies."

Review by Sokari Ekine in The Angry Black Woman blog


Extract from review by Teresa Barnes (University of the Western Cape) in Feminist Africa Issue 9 (2007) pp. 139-142:

"...Women in South African History brings together a rich, challenging and significant group of essays by leading social scientists and social activists who (with two exceptions) are based in South Africa. It should be on the bookshelf of everyone teaching and researching South African history. If every university history student in this country had a copy, it would be even better."

Extract from review by Sokari Ekine in Pambazuka News 301 (Source website: http//www.pambazuka.org/):

'The book is a radical departure from the traditional history texts in that it uses a feminist analysis rather than the 'more acceptable gender analysis' in its approach by examining 'the ways in which gender intersects with race, culture, class and other forms of identity and location in South African History'. By including the present as part of history the book shows how the past and present are inextricably linked and thus better examines women's experiences over the past 300 years. The experiences of women's struggle and their continuing hazardous journeys towards liberation are expressed through the dual metaphors of 'they move boulders'-challenges; and 'they cross rivers'-dangers'

'Women in South African History' is a 'trans-disciplinary' interrogation of events and periods in the history of South Africa from a feminist perspective. The narratives bring to life the daughters of Africa in their quest for emancipation, sometimes at great cost to themselves and their families, particularly their children.'

Click on the links below to read the reviews:

Real Magazine - March 2008



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