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Article

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 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

queen mother, was born in the kingdom of Rwanda sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century. She belonged to the influential Bakagara lineage of the Bega clan. Her father, Rwakagara, was a leader of the Bakagara lineage who had been deeply involved in the byzantine and often brutal competition within the Rwandan royal family. Sometime in the 1870s Kanjogera married the Rwandan monarch Rwabugiri (reigned 1867–1897). She became his favorite wife as he led numerous wars against neighboring states and ordered the killings of suspected enemies within Rwandan nobility and his own family. Around 1889 Rwabugiri decided to make Kanjogera the adoptive queen mother of his son Rutarindwa (who was born to a different wife), even though his son belonged to a different clan. Rutarindwa co-ruled with his father for several years until Rwabugiri's death in September 1895 Ritual specialists of the court proclaimed Kanjogera as ...

Article

Kanuni  

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 ...

Article

Judith Imel Van Allen

mohumagadi (queen or queen mother) of the BaNgwato of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now Botswana, and Christian leader and teacher. Semane Setlhoko was descended from BaBirwa and BaSeleka from the Tswapong Hills on the edge of the Limpopo valley, subject or vassal peoples of the BaNgwato, the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful of the BaTswana kingdoms. In 1900 she became the fourth wife of Khama III, kgosi (king) of the BaNgwato, despite initial disapproval by many BaNgwato because of her ancestry, which was far from the royal birth customary for the wife of a kgosi. Khama III’s daughter Bessie Ratshosa handpicked Semane as an appropriate mohumagadi to lead BaNgwato women into the modern world because of her achievements as a teacher a committed Christian and a temperance advocate Semane was also beautiful and intelligent as well as youthful and potentially fertile Khama III one of the first baptized Christians ...

Article

Betty Sibongile Dlamini

queen mother and powerful regent of Swaziland who promoted educational reforms and asserted Swazi rights against colonial intrusion, was born at Luhlekweni in northern Swaziland in 1858. Her name was given in honor of her biological father, Matsanjana Mdluli, who was fighting the Tsibeni people in the Transvaal at the time of her birth. Following the death of her father, she moved with her uncle, Mvelase Mdluli, to the royal homestead at Ludzidziu. As a result of her uncle’s guardianship, Swazi people are often referred to as bakaLaMvelase people of Mvelase s daughter She was also known as Gwamile because of her strong willed nature At Ludzidziu she came under the tutelage of the queen mother Thandile LaZidzi widow of King Sobhuza I and mother of Mswati II This background enabled Labotsibeni to learn the ways of the Swazi court She became one of the wives of King ...

Article

Marieke Clarke

senior queen to King Lobhengula, was probably born about 1855 in present-day Zimbabwe. Her father was Ngokho Dhlodhlo, of the powerful Nqameni ibutho or age-set (a group of men conscripted together). In or shortly before January 1870, Lozikeyi married Lobhengula, king-elect of the amaNdebele. The match was arranged to strengthen his support base since the Dhlodhlo family possessed military expertise and traditional healers’ skills as izinyanga. Muntuwani Dhlodhlo became keeper of the Red Axe shrine at Dula in present-day Matobo Communal Area.

In 1880 Lozikeyi became queen of Bulawayo and the king s second senior queen Lozikeyi had no biological child her father s brother s daughter Mamfimfi acting as surrogate bore Lobhengula a daughter Sidambe who was legally Queen Lozikeyi s child The Ndebele senior queen s task was to support the king and strengthen the nation She must understand Ndebele customs and traditions The senior ...

Article

Judith Imel Van Allen

was mohumagadi (queen or queen mother) of the BaNgwato, largest and most powerful of the Tswana polities in the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana), first wife of Khama III, kgosi (king) of the BaNgwato, and grandmother of the first president of Botswana, Seretse Khama. Her father Tshukudu, a hero in BaNgwato resistance to the Ndebele and subsequently a politically powerful kingmaker, had been involved in an attempt to overthrow Khama’s father, Sekgoma I; and Khama’s choice of her in preference to the wife chosen for him by his father was one of many actions that marked hostility between Sekgoma I and his Christian son.

Mma-Besi was baptized “Elizabeta” in April 1862 by Heinrich Schulenburg of the Hermannsburg Society of Lutherans who had baptized Khama two years earlier She took the Christian name Elizabeta in honor of Elizabeth Bessie Moffat daughter of the Scottish missionary Robert Moffat who founded the first ...

Article

Judith Imel Van Allen

BaTawana mohumagadi (queen or queen mother) and regent, was born in the Orange Free State, South Africa. Her parents were from the BaRolong, a Tswana subgroup resident both in South Africa and the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now Botswana. Pulane was trained as a nurse and took a job at Tiger Kloof School in South Africa, where she met her husband-to-be, Moremi, heir to bogosi (rulership) of the BaTawana of Ngamiland in northwestern Bechuanaland. They married in 1937, the year that he became the BaTawana kgosi (king) as Moremi III. Pulane had three children, including Letsholathebe, the heir to BaTawana bogosi.

Moremi III’s relationship with the British colonial government was conflictual, with repeated British accusations of corruption under his rule. In 1945 the British suspended Moremi III and named Pulane, whom they regarded as trustworthy, as tribal treasurer. When Moremi III was killed in a car crash in 1946 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Congolese political leader, was born with the name Ngassié in the village of Ngabé. She was a twin. Ngassié, which means “beautiful star,” belonged to a noble Téké-speaking family. Her parents agreed to marry her to the aged king of the Téké kingdom of Mbe, Iloo, who acted as a central authority over spiritual forces and collected taxes from various noble families in the Téké plateau as well as the lucrative markets of the Malebo Pool on the Congo River. The marriage took place around 1880 According to oral traditions Ngassié was Iloo s second wife Despite her youth she became a prominent figure among Iloo s councilors Like other Téké monarchs she received a new name upon becoming a queen Ngalifourou which means queen of power in Téké She profited from the military assistance that French colonial officer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza provided Iloo in subjugating dissident noble ...

Article

Karina Hestad Skeie

Christian queen in the Kingdom of Madagascar, was born Ramoma, the daughter of Prince Razakaratrimo from the Imamo province of central Madagascar, and Princess Rafarasoa, the sister of Queen Ranavalona I. As she belonged to the porous political and ethnic group called Merina, she is also called a Merina queen, and the Kingdom of Madagascar the Merina kingdom, to distinguish it from other kingdoms existing earlier and simultaneously elsewhere in Madagascar. It is known that Ramoma had three brothers, and that she learned how to read and write. Sometime in 1845 or 1846 she married her cousin Rakoto (Rakotond Radama), joining her cousin Queen Rasoherina (born Princess Rabodo) as one of his wives. Upon his mother Queen Ranavalona I’s death in 1861, Rakoto ascended the throne as King Radama II. At the time, Ramoma’s eldest brother, Ramboasalama, was Radama II’s rival to the throne.

After Radama II s assassination ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

the last queen of the Merina Empire in Madagascar (r. 1883–1897), was born Princess Razafindrahety, daughter of Andriantzimianatra, and was educated by Protestant missionaries. She first married Ratrimo, a nobleman who died in 1883. Later that year the ruling Queen Ranavalona II died, and Razafindrahety was named queen, taking the name Ranavalona III. She followed the pattern of the previous queens by marrying the prime minister, Rainilaiarivony, who was the actual ruler and a leading convert to Christianity.

Despite her limited ceremonial role, Ranavalona III was involved in the maneuvering that led to the French conquest of Madagascar. She signed a treaty with France in 1885 that gave the French certain rights and concessions and led to the declaration of a French protectorate over the entire island Though she sent gifts to US President Grover Cleveland seeking American help in fending off French interests the United States ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Burundian queen mother and political leader, was born sometime in the mid-nineteenth century in the kingdom of Burundi. Her full name was Nidi Ririkumutima Bizama Hitanzimiza Mwezi. She was married to Mwezi Gisabo, the king of Burundi, just as German forces finally reached the kingdom in the mid-1890s. Mwezi Gisabo held off the limited efforts by German officers to defeat his kingdom through military force, but he finally accepted German authority on 6 June 1903 in the Treaty of Kiganda. Ririkumutima was Mwezi Gisabo’s favorite wife. She bore him four sons: Karabona, Bishinga, Nduwumwe, and Bangura. She held a great deal of power in her own right. According to oral accounts, she intervened on behalf of a man falsely accused by members of the royal court. Ririkumutime demanded that the case be judged by the Bashingantahe royal council, who acquitted the man of the charges.

After Mwezi Gisabo s death ...

Article

Mary Nombulelo Ntabeni

was born Moipone Nkoebe, the firstborn daughter of Chief Sempe Nkoebe, one of the principal chiefs of Quthing in Lesotho (then known as Basutoland). She is also known as Mofumahali, meaning queen, a position she gained as the wife of the paramount chief; in the context of British colonial rule, she was regent paramount chieftainess of Lesotho from 1941 to 1960 She completed her primary education and then married Morena e Moholo king or paramount chief Simon Seeiso Griffith as his first wife They had one child a daughter named Ntsebo The marriage gave her a new designation as M a rona Mother of the Nation but during her regency she insisted on being called Ntate father because the office and of the other chiefs was regarded as a male position As it turned out Mantsebo has been the first and only Mosotho woman to occupy the office of ...

Article

Teresa Barnes

queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1837–1901), who ruled over the British Empire at its zenith and gave her name to an era characterized by enormous socioeconomic change, vast imperial expansion, and, stereotypically, a straight-laced style of personal rectitude. At the time of her birth, the British presence in Africa was limited to trading posts on its fringes. By her death in 1901, Victoria’s Britain had extended its influence (in some cases direct, in others indirect) to a territory encompassing present-day Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and part of Cameroon.

Born Alexandrina Victoria on 24 May 1819 the eldest child of Edward fourth son of King George III and Princess Victoria of Saxe Coburg Saalfeld Victoria s was an unlikely accession as three uncles stood before her ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Hanna Rubinkowska

empress of Ethiopia (r. 1916–1930), was born Askala Maryam on 29 April 1876 in Inewari, the third and youngest child of Emperor Menilek II. Her mother, Abchiw of Wello, was one of Menilek ‘s consorts. Zewditu’s birth caused Menilek’s wife at the time, Bafena, to take military action against her husband.

As a child, Zewditu stayed at her father’s court under the care of Bafena. In 1882 when she was six she married the son of Emperor Yohannes IV Ras Araya Sellase who was about thirteen years old The marriage was arranged for political reasons as it was meant to bind the interests of the then king of Shewa Menilek with those of Yohannes and was related to the taking of Wello Province from Menilek by the emperor who then gave it to Ras Araya These northern domains played a role in the ties linking Zewditu with the ...