The Women’s Mau of Samoa
Samoa’s history is peppered with skirmishes over land and even a civil war or two. It was customary back then for those who were defeated in battle to retreat into the mountains.
This is why, after the tragic events of Samoa’s Black Saturday, the men of the Mau scattered to find refuge in villages far away from Upolu’s troubled coastline.
The women, however, didn’t.
According to Wikipedia, the resistance against New Zealand’s rule in Samoa continued in the form of a Women’s Mau, which carried on the ‘councils, parades and symbolic protests that the men now could not.’
Not much is recorded about this organization. After a two week search, we could only find a handful of references to it online.
It’s most likely that the Women’s Mau was simply an extension of our traditional village Women’s Committees.
Many of it’s members were wives of the Mau’s men. Not surprisingly, Rosebel Nelson, wife of Mau leader Taisi Olaf F. Nelson, helped to instigate this movement. Pacific journalist Michael Field found a touching letter written to her by her husband, which sheds more light on the role of the Women’s Mau in securing eventual independence for Samoa:
My contribution to the cause of our little country, Samoa, is as much as can be expected from any one man.
I am quite proud of the part you have played in the formation of the Women’s Mau and I agree with you that the Men’s Mau might have greatly weakened if not given in altogether but for the part played by the women under your guidance and leadership. . .
Anne Maxwell, author of the book Colonial Photography & Exhibitions, suggests our Women’s Mau demonstrated Samoa’s potential for democracy, especially at a time when the concept of women sharing rights and responsibilities with men was foreign to just about any culture.
Finally, as written records began to fail us, we found this:
Image source: Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua
Today’s independent Samoa owes much to the truly collaborative efforts of our ancestors. In their struggle for freedom, the story of our Women’s Mau – their determination to carry on the work of their men, for the benefit of their children – is a powerful reminder to us that our Fa’asamoa is indeed founded on love.