Women played critical roles in making African nationalism ideologically and practically possible in South Africa. They not only participated in organisations, institutions, and campaigns that were well-documented by contemporaries. Some also documented themselves-- inscribing their ideals of nation, race, and citizenship in speeches, portraits, and writing. These women travelled around the country and, in a few influential cases, around the world-- theorising African women’s struggles in South Africa with reference to struggles elsewhere, especially across the black Atlantic. Yet they generally authorised their public engagements in terms of their commitments as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters-- proclaiming an interest in ‘social’ rather than ‘political’ work. Women’s familial modes of public engagement led South Africa’s first wave of feminist historians to see them as marginal influences on the making of an essentially patriarchal nationalism. But a survey of rich journalistic sources from the 1930s suggests that nationalist women were not uncritically defending patriarchy when they organised around domestic concerns. Rather, they were concerned to create a new sort of African family-- both capable of protecting its privacy and a model for new forms of public life that could nurture an African nationalist body politic.
From the 1840s, the American Zulu Mission (AZM) in Natal included a number of converts who took on Christian names after missionaries within the circle of the AZM, and after those missionaries’ American friends and relations. This article emphasises an issue that has been secondary in scholarship on naming as a tool of colonial control and redesignation: the responses to and uses of such names by those who bore them. We address this issue through an examination of two prominent lineages: the Goba/Hawes and Nembula/Makhanya families on American mission stations north and south of Durban. Our findings suggest that the results of missionaries’ exertions of power through re-namings were uneven: that pre-baptismal names resurfaced as a means of laying claim to or invoking particular identities and pasts; that baptismal names, or parts of them, could be mobilised or rejected over time according to different needs; and that attention to names may help to track these dynamics over time. We make use of the sociolinguistic understanding of names as “labels” (terms without semantic content) or as “pointers” (names pointing to, for instance, the circumstances of a person's birth) and adapt these categories: suggesting while scholars have seen baptismal names essentially as colonising labels, in the cases we explore, both baptismal and pre-baptismal names have served also as pointers—gesturing towards unstable pasts and futures.
This article examines the contradictions that African girls' schooling presented for colonial governance in Natal, through the case study of Inanda Seminary, the region's first and largest all-female school for Africans. While patriarchal colonial law circumscribed the educational options of girls whose fathers opposed their schooling, the head of Natal's nascent educational bureaucracy argued that African girls' education in Western domesticity would be essential in creating different sorts of families with different sorts of needs. In monogamous families, Native Schools Inspector Robert Plant argued, husbands and sons would be taught to ‘want’ enough to impel them to labour for wages – but they would also be sufficiently satisfied by their domestic comforts to avoid political unrest. Thus, even as colonial educational officials clamped down on African boys' curricula – attempting to restrict their schooling to the barest preparation for unskilled wage labour – they allowed missionaries autonomy to educate young women whose fathers did not challenge their school attendance. This was because young women's role in the social reproduction of new sorts of families made their education ultimately appear to be a benefit to colonial governance. As young men pursued wage labour, young women began to comprise the majority of African students, laying the groundwork for the feminisation of schooling in modern southern Africa.
A profusion of sensitive studies have traced the rise, fall, and resistance of educated African men in South Africa. But scholars have insufficiently explored the remarkable facts that South Africa’s pre-apartheid African educated elite was significantly comprised of women—and that by the end of apartheid, African women’s rates of high school attendance outpaced those of men. As the first all-female high school for black southern Africans (founded by American Zulu Mission women outside of Durban in 1869), Inanda Seminary provides a privileged vantage point from which to examine this history.
Through the first complete social history of Inanda Seminary, this study examines how rising numbers of African women came to attend school, and the meanings of their schooling in the making and unmaking of a racialized state. The mission schools that provided nearly all African schooling available before apartheid prepared girls to run homes, schools, and clinics on a shoestring, in an arrangement that appealed to officials. Yet as nationalist movements developed in the first half of the twentieth century, women from Inanda and peer institutions found in their work as teachers and heath workers power to shape the future of “the race.” When apartheid officials came to power in 1948, they needed the skills of an African middle-class to govern. But they needed to undermine this class politically to rule. These tensions came to a head in the Bantu Education Act of 1953, which sought to resolve them through a gendered strategy: officials encouraged African women’s training as teachers and nurses, even as they attempted to limit African male-led political agitation by nationalizing most mission schools and limiting their curricula to preparation for semi-skilled labor. From the interstices of racialized patriarchy, the most talented African female students at Inanda and other high schools used their schooling to push at personal, professional, and political boundaries—belying the gendered assumptions of “separate development.”
Inanda Seminary, near Durban in present-day KwaZulu-Natal, would become the most prestigious African girls’ high school in the segregationist Union of South Africa, and it would be the only institution of the elite nineteenth-century Protestant mission schools to continue under apartheid. It is now recognized by the African National Congress as an ‘‘historic school’’ and a national heritage site, and its success has attracted some scholarly attention. In its early years, however, Inanda was the site of grand evangelical ambitions and their frequent disappointment. This article reveals that struggles over intimate, familial connections lay at the core of Inanda’s globally rooted educational project.