Abstract: This paper traces the very different ways in which people mobilised motherhood as a social institution and an ideology in central and eastern Uganda as they faced the rapid economic and political changes of the nineteenth century. It argues that this was a period of contradictions in relation to motherhood’s role in the societies of the region. Motherhood remained central to social cohesion, particularly in the east, in a continuation albeit not unchanged of a much older tradition. This was reflected in the power wielded by queen mothers and in the political and ritual importance of a woman’s children to her kin. At the same time and especially in Buganda, men sought – often through violence – to undermine both the queen mother’s authority and the importance of her family in the kingdom. These tensions came to a head at the end of the century with the imposition of colonial rule and the exclusion of women from power.
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