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A World of Their Own

A World of Their Own: A History of South African Women’s Education

Meghan Healy-Clancy
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    A World of Their Own
    Book Description:

    The politics of black education has long been a key issue in southern African studies, but despite rich debates on the racial and class dimensions of schooling, historians have neglected their distinctive gendered dynamics.A World of Their Ownis the first book to explore the meanings of black women's education in the making of modern South Africa. Its lens is a social history of the first high school for black South African women, Inanda Seminary, from its 1869 founding outside of Durban through the recent past.

    Employing diverse archival and oral historical sources, Meghan Healy-Clancy reveals how educated black South African women developed a tradition of social leadership, by both working within and pushing at the boundaries of state power. She demonstrates that although colonial and apartheid governance marginalized women politically, it also valorized the social contributions of small cohorts of educated black women. This made space for growing numbers of black women to pursue careers as teachers and health workers over the course of the twentieth century. After the student uprisings of 1976, as young black men increasingly rejected formal education for exile and street politics, young black women increasingly stayed in school and cultivated an alternative form of student politics. Inanda Seminary students' experiences vividly show how their academic achievements challenged the narrow conceptions of black women's social roles harbored by both officials and black male activists. By the transition to democracy in the early 1990s, black women outnumbered black men at every level of education-introducing both new opportunities for women and gendered conflicts that remain acute today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3609-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on Terminology and Orthography
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Inanda Seminary stands some fifteen miles north of Durban, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, its verdant campus separated from the township around it by a long driveway and an electric fence. Amidst whitewashed buildings and jacarandas, neatly attired schoolgirls file between classrooms, the doors to which almost invariably remain unlocked. On the 140th anniversary of the high school’s 1869 founding under the auspices of the American Zulu Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, these students greeted alumnae who call themselves ‘Old Girls’ and who include some of South Africa’s most prominent women. Among these alumnae was the then deputy president...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Social Reproduction in the Making of a ‘Benevolent Empire’: 1835–1885
    (pp. 18-52)

    ‘The whole system of schools in this mission needs reforming,’ Henry Bridgman wrote to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on behalf of his American Zulu Mission in 1864. ‘We absolutely need now, a girls Seminary, modelled after Mt. Holyoke Sem. as much as the case will admit. We absolutely need a boys Seminary for training up teachers & evangelists.’¹

    Bridgman’s call for a school in the African countryside modelled on the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts may seem strange. But the American Zulu Mission and Mount Holyoke were coeval parts of American Protestants’ ‘benevolent empire’.² In...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Domestic Revolutions and the Feminisation of Schooling in Natal: 1885–1910
    (pp. 53-86)

    In 1894, Native Schools Inspector Robert Plant concluded of Inanda that he had ‘nothing but praise to give. The modesty, cleanliness, good behaviour, general intelligence, and industry shown by the girls generally is most creditable both to themselves and the ladies in charge.’ He added that Inanda’s enrolment evinced ‘the popularity which it has deservedly gained amongst the Native people’; it was ‘as near the ideal Native girls’ school as it seems possible to get’.¹

    Such sunny appraisals appear throughout official reports from the 1885 appointment of the first inspector of African education through the early twentieth century, suggesting alignment...

  10. CHAPTER THREE New African Women’s Work in Segregationist South Africa: 1910–1948
    (pp. 87-119)

    In honour of Inanda Seminary’s seventieth anniversary, over 500 alumnae descended upon the campus in 1939. After a ceremony featuring Lucy Isaac, the oldest alumna, the women crowded into the chapel to hear the day’s keynote speaker: alumna Ntombi Mndima Tantsi, who spoke on behalf of the more than 4000 women who had attended Inanda since its founding. Tantsi was an apt representative. A third-generation Inanda Christian, she had worked for the American Board in Southern Rhodesia before she ‘married into the African Methodist Episcopal Church’ and, with her husband, went to evangelise in the Transvaal.¹ Her AME work would...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Education Policy and the Gendered Making of Separate Development: 1948–1976
    (pp. 120-162)

    In late 1956, Adams College held its last service. During a storm that pelted the iron-roofed chapel with ominous force, a full congregation tearfully sang ‘God Be with You until We Meet Again’. ‘Two Native women students in the choir stopped singing because they were overcome with emotion. Male students silently bowed their heads as they realised that “the final blow had fallen”,’ theNatal Daily Newsreported.¹ ‘As scores of rich, meaningful Bantu voices rose to the crescendo of the last Amen in the Adams College Mission Church yesterday afternoon, more than a century of Christian endeavour came to...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Educated African Women in a Time of Political Revolution: 1976–1994
    (pp. 163-190)

    In June 1976, Sikose Mji was training as a secretary at Inanda, in the course that had been launched with funding from American corporations avoiding divestment and with the support of KwaZulu leader Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi. But Mji was not interested in using her schooling to sustain the society that existed beyond Inanda, a society that capitalists and elites like Buthelezi structured. She came from a political family, who had sneaked her into ‘coloured’ schools and to Lesotho for a decade of schooling; her father was a doctor and had been a pioneering member of the African National Congress (ANC)...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 191-199)

    Post-apartheid educational transformations will hinge on concurrent transformations in the economy and society – which remain characterised by striking degrees of progress towards gender and racial equity in some dimensions, but limited by deepening class divisions and the violence that widespread poverty generates. Young women make up a majority of all students at secondary and university levels; their enrolments now outpace those of men even at medical schools.¹ Yet their pay and promotions tend to trail those of men.² The feminisation of the labour force has coincided with feminisation of unemployment, poverty and disease.³

    As the then Minister of Education Naledi...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 200-264)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-293)
  16. Index
    (pp. 294-312)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-314)