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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Worries of the Heart': Widowed Mothers, Daughters and Masculinities in Maragoli, Western Kenya, 1940-60
Author:Mutongi, Kenda
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Kenya
Subjects:gender relations
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Women's Issues
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/183395
Abstract:This article examines the dynamic relations surrounding widowhood in Maragoli, western Kenya, in the 1940s and 1950s. It argues that Maragoli widows actively exploited gendered understandings of grief to improve their status and, especially, to raise their daughters. Through the public proclamation of their needs - what they called their 'kehenda mwoyo' or 'worries of the heart' - widows solicited help from men in their communities and thus put them in the difficult position of having to publicly defend their 'ideal' masculinity. Afraid of being labelled inadequate, most men were forced to assist widows with raising and educating their daughters and ensuring that they contracted lucrative and stable marriages. The 1940s therefore saw many more young women attend primary school than ever before. Widowhood provided an important impetus for mothers to accumulate cash bridewealth from their daughters' marriages. Widows also resorted to the newly reformed courts to save their daughters' marriages and secure their own financial stability. In either case, Maragoli widows made deliberate use of their status as grieving widows to play upon their dependency by taking advantage of gendered expectations and using the courts to promote patriarchal practices. In the end, however, their immediate dependency on men was only temporary. Notes, ref., sum.