"Robertson's book represents a powerful contribution to African social, economic, and women's history. Highly recommended." -- Choice
"An important resource for anyone interested in the history of women and trade in modern Kenya...." -- International Journal of African Historical Studies
..". a landmark study, meticulously executed and written.... it will have a wide impact on some of the most significant questions facing the disciplines of history, anthropology, political science, and development economics." -- Gracia Clark
Herskovitz Award-winner Claire Robertson employs a variety of approaches to analyze and weave together this wide-ranging study. Her book provides an extensive case study of historical transformations in gender, agriculture, residence, and civil society. Based on archival documents, library sources (fiction and nonfiction, primary and secondary), surveys and oral histories, participant observation, and quantitative and qualitative analysis, Robertson breaks new ground by focusing on traders in one commodity, dried staples, and comparing and contrasting the evolution of women's trade with men's trade.
Based on extensive archival and oral research, Robertson's book offers a fascinating and previously untold story that of women traders in central Kenya. Fundamental to the economic and social history of East Africa, women's trade both predated colonialism and outlasted it. Exploring the interlinkage of women's agricultural production and their trade, Robertson describes how, during the colonial period, central Kenyan women dominated the dried staples trade throughout much of the country and fed the rapidly growing urban center of Nairobi. She demonstrates the ways in which colonial policies, aided and abetted by African men, gradually circumscribed women's trading options and their economic activities, mobility, and sexuality. Women responded to these efforts with resistance and innovation. In the postindependence period, women's solidarity groups and campaigns of collective action have increasingly led to their empowerment, despite male antipathy and a hostile state. Robertson's book represents a powerful contribution to African social, economic, and women's history. Highly recommended. Upper division undergraduates and above.E. S. Schmidt, Loyola College in Maryland, Choice, June 1998"