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The Daughters of Africa and Transatlantic Racial Kinship

Cecilia Lilian Tshabalala and the Women’s Club Movement, 1912-1943

Meghan Healy-Clancy


Pages 481 - 499

open-access



This article explores how South African women drew upon African American models of public engagement to articulate a locally meaningful racial identity. Its focus is on the work of Cecilia Lillian Tshabalala, who was born in Natal and moved to the United States in 1912. After attending the Hampton Institute, New Britain State Normal School, and the Moody Bible Institute in the United States, she taught at an African Methodist Episcopal Church girls’ school in Gold Coast (Ghana) and at black Congregationalist churches in Hartford and Brooklyn, before returning to South Africa in 1930. In 1932 Tshabalala launched a women’s club movement, the Daughters of Africa (DOA), which was modeled on the African American women’s club movement. Members of the DOA organized social welfare activities including small enterprise, public health, and educational initiatives, and wrote about these activities in African newspapers, articulating a model of women’s public activism premised on their domestic authority. Focusing on Tshabalala’s writing in the Johannesburg-based ‘Bantu World’ as the DOA expanded its operations through Natal and into the Witwatersrand in the latter half of the 1930s and the early 1940s, this article highlights the gendered possibilities of transatlantic racial kinship during a foundational period in African nationalism.

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