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Engendering West Central African History: The Role of Urban Women in Benguela in the Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2015


This study stresses the role of common women in the history of Benguela in the nineteenth century. I emphasize the importance of parish records to unveil sectors of the society that tend to be invisible in the history of Angola, such as farmers, poor women who acted as vendors in the urban centers, and particularly, enslaved women. While some attention has been paid to merchant women, the so-called donas, and on political leaders, particularly Queen Nzinga, the same cannot be said about the poor and the enslaved women. Parish records allow us to access bits of information on the lives of women who did not leave written records and did not gain attention from the Portuguese authorities.


Cet article souligne le rôle joué par les femmes du peuple dans l’histoire de Benguela au XIXème siècle. Ce papier met en valeur l’importance des registres paroissiaux pour révéler des secteurs de la société qui ont tendance à rester invisibles dans l’histoire de l’Angola, comme les agriculteurs, les femmes pauvres qui travaillaient comme vendeuses dans les centres urbains et, en particulier, les femmes esclaves. Alors que les femmes participant au commerce, appelées donas, et les dirigeants politiques comme particulièrement la reine Nzinga ont fait l’objet d’études, les pauvres et les femmes esclaves n’ont pas bénéficié du même traitement. Les registres paroissiaux nous permettent d’avoir accès à des miettes d’information sur la vie des femmes qui n’ont pas laissé de trace écrite et qui n’ont pas attiré l’attention des autorités portugaises.

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Copyright © African Studies Association 2015 

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