When Men and Women Mattered

When Men and Women Mattered

A History of Gender Relations Among the Owan of Nigeria

Onaiwu W. Ogbomo


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University of Rochester Press



A study of changes in gender relations among the Owan people of Southern Nigeria over a period of five hundred years.
Drawing upon narrative tradition, reenactment ceremonies, legends of gods and goddesses, and the fusion of numerous genealogies, this book examines gender relations among the Owan people of southern Nigeria between c.1320 and the beginning of the twentieth century. The author challenges the orthodox view that patriarchy has been the norm in all societies, adding to our understanding of the origins of patriarchy and placing its development in an historical perspective. He also suggests a new definition of matriarchy, not simply as rule by women, but also as a phase in the history of societies in which gender equality existed.
The book argues that the Owan people once had a social order very close to matriarchy. Despite a large influx from neighbouring peoples with a strong patriarchal tradition, Owan women retained their high social status and power because of their virtual control of the cotton trade, but after the demand for cotton decreased sharply after 1700, their social position declined rapidly until the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was altered legally by the establishment of British rule.ONAIWU W. OGBOMOteaches history at Allegheny College, Pennsylvania.


June 1997
232 pages
22.8x15.2 in
ISBN: 9781878822789
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC SOC002000, HIS001000
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Creative use of oral historical texts...This book contributes to reopening the debate about whether or not patriarchy was universal by providing cogent evidence and a thoughtful position that challenges current assumptions...It is also a much needed contribution to precolonial African history...Ogbomo's efforts are serious, highly commendable and thought provoking. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, Dec. 98 "The book succeeds in its contribution to feminist scholarship." AF. ECONOMIC HISTORY #26Ogbomo's creative use of oral and other non-written sources and his interesting appendix on research methods and field experience will be useful for other pre-colonial investigations. J. OF AFRICAN HISTORYConstitutes a bold attempt to explore a field that few historians have dared to enter. INT'L JNL OF AF. HISTORICAL STUDIES