Women's Roles in Sub-Saharan Africa
by Toyin Falola and Nana Akua Amponsah
January 2012, 232pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38544-5
$64, £48, 54€, A92
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38545-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Women’s roles in African societies are often misunderstood and underestimated. Contrary to the popular notion that African women are completely dependent on their husbands and male relatives, studies have shown that women bear greater responsibilities than men in their families. Research also suggests that colonial rulers were afraid of African women’s spiritual abilities in anticolonial resistance and therefore sought to eliminate such women.

This exhaustive exploration of the sociocultural, political, and economic roles of African women through history demonstrates how African women have shaped—and continue to shape—their societies.

Women play essential, critical roles in every society; African women south of the Sahara are certainly no different. Women’s Roles in Sub-Saharan Africa adds significantly to our understanding of the ways in which women contribute to the fabric of human civilization.

This book provides an in-depth exploration of African women’s roles in society from precolonial periods to the contemporary era. Topical sections describe the roles that women play in family, courtship and marriage, religion, work, literature and arts, and government. Each of the six chapters has been structured to elucidate women’s roles and functions in society as partners, as active participants, as defenders of their status and occupations, and as agents of change. Authors Nana Akua Amponsah and Toyin Falola present a thought-provoking work that looks at the complicated victimhood/powerful-female paradigm in women and gender studies in Africa, and challenge ideological interest in African historiography that privilege male representation.


  • Describes chronological events in women's lives covering precolonial to postcolonial Africa
  • Includes photographs of powerful women in colonial Africa; arts such as bead-making, pottery, and basketry; contemporary women in politics; and more
  • Lists significant bibliographical materials from historical, anthropological, ethnographical, and sociological sources
Toyin Falola is Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial professor and a distinguished teaching professor of African history at The University of Texas, Austin, TX. Falola has authored, coauthored, and edited over 100 books, including Narrating War and Peace in Africa.

Nana Akua Amponsah is a PhD candidate of African women's history at The University of Texas, Austin, TX. Her published works included the article, "Ghanaian Immigrant Women's Memories," in Women's Studies An Interdisciplinary Journal.


"In this wide-ranging study, emerging scholar of women's and gender history Amponsah (doctoral student, Univ. of Texas) and prolific UT historian Falola, the author or editor of more than 100 books, explore the complex roles of African women as wives and mothers, religious practitioners, workers and employers, artists and authors, government officials, and consumers and purveyors of education. . . . Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, August 1, 2012
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