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Skidmore College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


The concept of motherhood is often paired with notions of nurturing and caretaking, but it is rarely seen in the context of activism or social and political change. Thus, by researching the relationship between mother activists and their daughters, this paper delves into the concepts of how motherhood is perceived through a feminist lens, and what it means to be a mother while also performing duties as an activist. The research tackles the questions of whether daughters of mother activists become activists themselves, and how they were affected by their mother’s activism during adolescence, if at all.

A narrative approach was used for data collection: one-on-one qualitative interviews with seven women were used to collect this data. The interviews were with mothers who were activists themselves, as well as adult daughters of mother activists. Amongst the sample of seven women, there were two mother-daughter pairs. The interviews yielded fascinating responses, such as the fact that daughters of mothers often did not feel neglected, and instead felt rather apathetic towards their mothers’ activism as children. As they got older, however, the research yielded that they started to understand and respect their mother’s work more. Also, the research showed that all daughters of mother activists became activists themselves, proving a strong intergenerational link regarding political ideologies and outlooks regarding activism. This study took place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, a country that was specific to research due to the legacy of Apartheid and mothers in activism.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Feminist Philosophy | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies


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