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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Evolution of Female Chiefship during the Late Nineteenth-Century Wars of the Mende
Author:Day, Lynda R.
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic term:Sierra Leone
women rulers
History and Exploration
Women's Issues
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/220756
Abstract:This article considers some of the developments in Mende country, Sierra Leone, that led to the transformation of female chiefship by the end of the 19th century. The 'secret' society and kinship-based social organization operating in Mende/Sherbro country during the 18th and 19th centuries began to change into a protoclass society following the increase in trade, slavery, and militarization of the late 19th century. The authority women had wielded as lineage heads, founders of towns and villages, and secret society officials began to be transformed into land chiefship even before the imposition of colonial rule. The wives and daughters of war leaders, as members of the new social hierarchy, were especially well situated to establish themselves as chiefs of the land. Three specific cases of female chiefs who came to power during the late 19th-century wars of expansion illustrate these developments: Madam Nenge of Baoma, Queen Nyarroh of Bandasuma, and Madam Yoko, head of the Kpa Mende confederacy. Although the internal State-building process was truncated with the imposition of colonial rule in 1898, women retained access to positions of political power through the newly codified title of 'paramount chief'. Notes, ref.