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Voices From Mutira: Change in the Lives of Rural Gikuyu Women, 1910-1995, 2nd Edition

Jean Davison
Voices From Mutira:  Change in the Lives of Rural Gikuyu Women, 1910-1995, 2nd Edition
ISBN: 978-1-55587-602-9
ISBN: 978-1-62637-532-1
1996/265 pages/LC: 95-46622

"This book will both delight and be of interest to those concerned with Third World women, the gender aspects of African rural life, and the development role of Gikuyu women.... Jean Davison has let the women speak for themselves ... and the reader s understanding is much enriched for this."—Nici Nelson, The Journal of Development Studies

Praise for the first edition:

"I am thrilled to see for the first time an outsider who captures the lives of a people so beautifully and correctly."— Margaret Wangeci Gatimu

"Engaging and vivid, revealing the lives of Gikuyu women as farmers, wives and mothers. . . . Well worth the attention of scholars [and also] a rich resource for students from introductory social science courses to advanced levels."—African Studies Review

"A wonderfully rich, informative collection of life histories that provides insights heretofore unavailable. . . . This is 'people's history' at its best. . . . The book would be perfect in women's studies and African studies courses."— Kathy Staudt


To update this rich, informative collection of life histories, Davison returned to Mutira in 1989, 1992, and 1994, documenting the changes occurring since her 1984 study. Six of the seven life histories in the first edition have been expanded to reflect the events of the last decade. Two new introductory chapters frame the life histories within the context both of the significant macrolevel transitions in Kenya and the current thinking about gender and the development process.

The seven women who are the focus of the book describe, with dignity, candor, and often humor, their own views of the often turbulent historical and sociocultural forces influencing their individual and collective lives. They discuss—from differing points of view—such feminist issues as female circumcision, polygyny, family violence, and experiences of mothering. And spanning nearly a century, their histories illuminate critical moments in Kenya's past.


The late Jean Davison was adjunct professor of sociology at the American University.


  • Change in Mutira Women's Lives.
  • Kenya and the Gikuyu: Social and Historical Contexts.
  • Wanjiku:The Life of a Traditional Woman.
  • Wamutira: The First Wife.
  • Watoro's Story: Poverty Is Like Dust.
  • Wangeci's Story: A Widow Among Women.
  • Wanoi: The Many Facets of a Midwife.
  • Nyambura: Child of Independence.
  • Wanja: Forward-Looking Woman.
  • The Life Histories in Retrospect.