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Margaret Wade-Lewis

the first African American female linguist, early theorist in Pidgin and Creole linguistics, and educator, was born Beryl Isadore Loftman in Black River, Jamaica, West Indies. Her mother, Eliza Isadore Smith Loftman, was a teacher, and her father, James Henry Loftman, was an educator who became an inspector of schools. Because she was of the middle class, Beryl Loftman was expected to converse in Standard Jamaican English. Nevertheless, she valued the rhythm, music, and style of Creole: “Though I was forbidden to speak Jamaican Creole in the home during my childhood, my use of Standard Jamaican English was restricted to the earshot of my parents, teachers. … With my playmates, brothers and sisters, household help, and the country folk, I conversed always in Creole” (Bailey, “Creole Languages,” 3).

Loftman was the eldest of six children and she and her siblings Lucille Myrtle Kenneth Seymour and Howard who died ...


Meghan Elisabeth Healy

British advocate for the Zulu kingdom and Anglican missionary, was born in Norfolk, England. She was the first of five children born to John William Colenso and Sarah Frances (Bunyon) Colenso, a couple whose universalistic Christian faith pushed them into repeated confrontations with ecclesiastical and colonial authorities.

In 1853 John Colenso was appointed the Anglican bishop of Natal, and in 1855 the Colensos established their home and mission station at Bishopstowe, near the colonial capital of Pietermaritzburg. Known as Ekukhanyeni (“the place of light” in Zulu), the Colensos’s mission station became a center of Christian schooling and evangelization in the colony. Ekukhanyeni also became a center of political agitation: Bishop Colenso advocated for the AmaHlubi Chief Langalibalele ka Mthimkhulu during the chief’s trial on charges of rebellion in 1874, and he supported the Zulu king Cetshwayo ka Mpande during and after the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

Bishop Colenso ...


Judith Imel Van Allen

mohumagadi (queen or queen-mother) successively of the Mmanaana Kgatla and BaNgwaketse (subgroups of the BaTswana in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, present-day Botswana), was born around 1845. She was also regent of the BaNgwaketse for her grandson, Bathoen II, later a prominent leader in colonial and postindependence politics. Gagoangwe was a daughter of Sechele I, king (kgosi) of the BaKwena, and his wife Mokgokong. As a child, Gagoangwe put out the eye of a servant, and her militantly Christian father, asserting both the biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye” and a certain equality among BaKwena, allowed the servant to blind his own daughter in return. She later became known as the “one-eyed queen.”

Gagoangwe first married Kgosi Pilane of the Mmanaana Kgatla, but in 1875 eloped with Bathoen I, heir to rulership (bogosi of the BaNgwaketse and later married him Gagoangwe was a devout Christian and an ...


Kenyatta D. Berry

a black Seminole, was born around 1857 or 1858 in Nacimiento de Los Negros, the settlement established in northern Mexico following the emigration of Indian and Black Seminoles from the United States Indian Territory in 1849. In 1849 about two hundred Seminoles and blacks left the reserve without the permission of Indian agents or government officials and headed to Mexico. Nine months later they crossed into the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass. The Mexican government settled the new immigrants into two small military colonies at Muzquiz and Nacimiento de Los Negros. At its peak in 1850 this colony provided a home for more than seven hundred Black Seminole men women and children The tribes of Black Seminoles were a mixture of Seminole Indians and African American slaves fleeing from Florida after the Seminole War This group became famous for their thorough clearing of marauders from their territory ...



Heike Becker

hompa (queen) of the Kwangali people in the northeastern Namibian Okavango region for more than thirty-five years, was probably born around the turn of the twentieth century. Very little is known about her background except that she was a member of the Kwangali royal clan. Her exact date of birth is unknown, but she was described as a young woman when she first came to power in 1923.

Kanuni became a regent in 1923 after the death of the previous hompa, Kandjimi. As a sister to both the previous hompa and his successor, she first reigned in place of the new hompa Mbuna who was still very young but had been chosen as Kandjimi s successor and approved by the colonial authorities under the newly established Native Commissioner for the Okavango District René Dickmann Mbuna also referred to as Kandjimi II died in an accident in the ...


Heike Becker

the first Herero convert to Christianity, a translator, a teacher, and a midwife, was born in September 1837 as the daughter of Kazahendike and his wife Kariaavihe in Hereroland in what is today central Namibia. Her family was among those Herero who were impoverished and displaced by the conflicts that were ravaging central Namibia in the 1840s (especially those between Jan Jonker Afrikaner and Tjimuhua) and who subsequently gravitated toward the early missions in search of shelter and livelihood. Urieta Kazahendike was about ten or twelve years old when she came to live with German-born missionary Carl Hugo Hahn and his English wife Emma, née Hone, who had arrived in Namibia in 1844. Kazahendike lived with the Hahns first at Otjikango, about 70 kilometers north of Windhoek, which the missionaries called “New Barmen.” In 1855 she followed the Hahn family to Otjimbingwe to the west of Otjikango From ...


Jeff Opland

Xhosa poet (in present-day South Africa), was the daughter of Emmah Jane Mgqwetto, daughter of Zingelwa of the Cwerha clan, who died in Whittlesea in 1922. Her father was a member of the Chizama clan. In terms of royal allegiance, Mgqwetho considered herself a Ngqika or Rharhabe, a supporter of King Sandile, who died in 1879. Her only article in English, published in 1923, is attributed to Elizabeth Mgqwetto, “The well-known and talented Poetess.” Mgqwetho consistently spelled her surname “Mgqwetto,” but Xhosa orthography was revised in 1936 (seven years after the appearance of her final publication), in accordance with which she might well have spelled her name “Mgqwetho,” the spelling used in a 1949 newspaper article that mentions her. “Mgqwetho” is the spelling adopted in the edition of her collected poems published in 2007.

Apart from the evidence of her own poems very few facts can ...


Gloria Chuku

omu (female monarch) and trader, was born in the nineteenth century in the city of Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria. Her father was Isagba Okwuona of Ogbendida village, Onitsha, and her mother was Ngbokwa Amasinwa Okigbo of nearby Ojoto. Nwagboka married Uzoka Egwuatu, an Igala immigrant from Ogbeotu village, Onitsha. While Nwagboka’s husband maintained two residences, one at Igala and another in Onitsha, she lived in Onitsha with her son, Egwuatu. Nwagboka started her trading career as an apprentice, but later became a successful trader herself due to her business acumen and her Igala connections, through which she bought elephant tusks, which she sold to European traders. Ivory was a very lucrative trade at the time, in high demand both locally and overseas. It was estimated that, in two consignments of ivory Nwagboka shipped overseas, she made £10,000. She gave some of the proceeds to Obi king Anazonwu 1823 1899 ...


C. S'thembile West

dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, was born in Trinidad, the daughter of Edward Primus and Emily Jackson, and migrated with her family to New York City when she was two years old. She majored in biology and premedicine at Hunter College of the City University of New York and graduated in1940. Seeking support for graduate studies, she solicited help from the National Youth Administration (NYA). Under the auspices of the NYA she was enrolled in a dance group, subsequently auditioned for the New Dance Group in New York, and earned a scholarship with that institution.

During Primus's tenure at the New Dance Group, she began to do research on African culture. She visited museums and consulted books, articles, and pictures for months to produce on 14 February 1943 her first significant dance work, African Ceremonial which she had asked continental Africans to judge ...


Darren Newbury

South African photographer, was born Constance Stuart in Cornwall, England, on 7 August 1914, the daughter of a Scottish mining engineer and the wife he met while studying in Cornwall. The family emigrated the year Constance was born. Her father went ahead taking up a post as manager of a tin mine at Groenfontein, northern Transvaal; mother and daughter followed when the latter was aged three months. The marriage did not last and in 1920 Stuart-Larrabee moved with her mother to Pretoria, where she was educated at Arcadia School and Pretoria High School for Girls.

Her enthusiasm for photography was first sparked when she received a Kodak Box Brownie for her tenth birthday. She learned to process her own pictures and in 1930 exhibited eight contact prints at the Pretoria Agricultural Society Show. In 1933 she travelled to Europe to study photography She went first to Regent Street ...


Edna G. Bay

high official in the government of King Glele (1858–1889) of the Fon kingdom of Dahomey (located in what is now southern Benin), held the key office of Tononu, a position that is sometimes compared with that of the head wife in polygynous marriages (e.g., the woman who directed all others in the household). Reportedly the king’s favorite, Visesegan was one of thousands of the king’s wives or dependents, all of whom—women and men—were called ahosi. A woman grown wealthy through commercial activities, Visesegan played a central political role in two major internal struggles of the late nineteenth century: the question of which prince would succeed Glele, and the development of appropriate responses to French demands that led to the 1892 invasion and conquest of Dahomey.

In the late nineteenth century an estimated five thousand plus women and a much smaller number of eunuchs inhabited a series of ...


Godfrey Muriuki

Kikuyu leader, was born in the 1850s in Gitie village of Kangema Division in Murang’a District to Gatuika Macharia and his wife, Wakeru. By that time, Kikuyu society had evolved into a patriarchy owing to economic changes, particularly the growing importance of pastoralism and the development of ancestor worship, both of which emphasized the role of men. Nevertheless, vestiges of a matriarchal system survived. For example, the 10 Kikuyu clans bear the names of females. Moreover, the Kikuyu refer to themselves as Nyumba ya Mumbi, a woman.

Wangu grew into a beautiful courageous diligent and hospitable woman attracting the attention of many a man However she eventually settled on Makeri wa Mbogo who hailed from Koimbi a neighboring ridge Mbogo was a descendant of the Dorobo one of the indigenous groups that owned this region before the arrival of Kikuyu migrants Because of this background he owned a ...