Single Tswana Women Migrants in South Africa

  • Camilla May Cockerton


The 1920s and the 1930s saw the increasing domination of the Rand as a destination not only for Bechuanaland women, but for black women throughout Southern Africa. During this time period, single women migrants from Bechuanaland became migrant mothers. They engaged in oscillating, stepping-stone migration, leaving their children in the care of their mothers in their home village. This multi-generational matrifocal household strengthened ties between women, and sustained and socially and economically supported the most vulnerable elements of Tswana society: elderly, single women, and children. Eventually, these migrant women returned to Bechuanaland, moving into their own lolwapa in the natal village. This chapter explores the exodus of Tswana women from Bechuanaland to South Africa, the spatial reach of women’s migration after 1920, wage labour on white farms, the “stepping-stone” pattern, and the temporal character of Tswana women’s migration.


Destination Oscillating Stepping-stone migration Matrifocal households Exodus Spatial reach Wage labour Migrant mothers 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Camilla May Cockerton
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ResearcherWellingtonNew Zealand

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