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Mother is Gold: Norms of Motherhood in African Literature

Sadie Marsh
Sadie Marsh
Faculty Advisor(s)

Universally, we have recognized that colonialism has a negative impact on those who are colonized, and that the effects still echo through political and economic realms today. Motherhood is one important category in the private sphere that has been largely ignored by experts. Colonialism has had a devastating impact on the agency of women in African countries. In the struggle between African society’s own view of women’s agency and status and the invading view of the western colonizers, mothers tend to be stuck in the middle. Looking specifically at two novels, Your Name Shall Be Tanga by Calixthe Beyala and The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta, the impact of colonialism and western ideals on women’s status as mothers in Cameroon and Nigeria will be explored. Special attention will be given to the status of the title of mother, conversion to Christianity, and application of western ideas of women’s agency in societies where motherhood tends to be more of a communal rather than individual role.   


Sadie Marsh is a senior from Lexington, Kentucky. She is majoring in English, minoring in Religious Studies, and receiving her Elementary Teaching license. During her time at Salem she has discovered a passion for researching the agency women gain and lose through motherhood.