Market in Southeastern Nigeria
This is an image of local women at a market in southeastern Nigeria in the 1930s. In the precolonial period, women in this society had a very strong role in the economy. They were, in fact, the major traders in palm oil. As palm oil becomes a more valuable export commodity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, men take over that trade. Women always maintain a role, although it becomes increasingly a subordinate one. But they plainly do have a role in the economy. When colonial officials come and look at institutions in the society through which they can govern, they are not looking for women’s institutions. They are looking for male institutions. Women really lose out in the political realm and then ultimately in the economic realm.