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The Nwaobiala of 1925

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During a session of the Aba Commission of Inquiry’s hearings on the Women’s War of 1929, Kenneth A. B. Cochrane, then the district officer of Ahoada, was asked to comment on southeastern Nigerian women’s organizational abilities. This issue much perplexed colonial officials in Nigeria and London, since it seemed incredible to them that women could organize mass rallies and demonstrations without the instigation and assistance of men. Cochrane replied that the Ogu “proved they were able to organise, which was a thing that was doubted to a certain extent before.”1 This bald statement seems peculiar when we consider that the same man had been a colonial officer in the Nigerian southeast since 1915 and had authored a 1925 memo to the Owerri Province resident entitled “Women’s Purity Campaign.”2 In his memo, Cochrane, at the time district officer of Bende, reported a recent encounter with groups of dancers, numbering “several hundred women,” in the large market town of Umuahia, the site of even larger demonstrations in 1929. These women had caused a series of disturbances in the Umuahia area, beginning with the denuding of young women in the marketplace and proceeding to seize property belonging to Christian women and certain, unspecified men. Cochrane presided over several court cases resulting from the property seizures and fined the assembled women accordingly.


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© 2012 Marc Matera, Misty L. Bastian and Susan Kingsley Kent

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Matera, M., Bastian, M.L., Kent, S.K. (2012). The Nwaobiala of 1925. In: The Women’s War of 1929. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-33796-5

  • Online ISBN: 978-0-230-35606-1

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