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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.

…said Nelson.

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:

Women's Mau Samoa

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.

xx HGG

Our mission is not over. Our hunt for more information about this incredible group of women will continue in the real world. If you have any knowledge about Samoa’s Women’s Mau, or a lead for our continued research, please leave us a comment below.
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Known off-line as Lillian 'Lei'a' Arp, HGG is just a geek girl learning how to be Samoan. You can also find her at Cup Tea talking about her other most favorite topic in the world: food!

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9 Comments so far...

  1. avatar Taumeasina says:

    Tupulaga Toe Tepa Tasi group from Missouri really likes this article.

  2. avatar penina says:

    hey wikipedia stuff is not highly recommended and its not a relaible source of information regarding the Mau Movement..becos its all based on pepoz opinions and it can be changed over time..beta to get two accounts of the movement by looking into a western scieitific literature and traditional accounts then compare and critique both lits

    some sources that mite find helpful

    “malama meleisea’
    davidsonz
    epeli hauofa
    jocelyn linnerkin
    micheal field esp the one on Black saturday n mau movement

    good luck peps

  3. avatar Tuilavasii Tom Aiono says:

    Throughout my entire life in Samoa, I never heard or was even told by anybody that there was such an organisation called “The Womens Mau” that ever existed in Samoa before it became independent in 1962, a year after I was born. All I knew was that the wives of the men who were members of The Mau Movement, used to cook the food, and then take them secretly to whichever location in the bush where the men were hiding out, so that they could be fed….because the New Zealand soldiers would catch them and lock them up if they were found to be helping the Mau members in any way or form. My great uncle “Le’aupepe Tom Frost” was the secretary of The Mau Movement, him and a lot of other courageous high chieves and orators of Samoa sacrificed a lot, some of them even sacrificed their lives like the great “Tuiaana Tupua Tamasese” and some of the young men from Vaimoso and other villages who died with him on The Black Friday, trying to fight for Samoas’ Independence.

  4. avatar delilah pal says:

    that’s excellent to find ONE of MANY histocial continous TRUTH coming out of our people,
    my grandmother born in 1929 to a Half German Gurl, it’s ‘mere’ point is true.

    I also hold HISTORY documentation of Papers, my family SCRIPT out for those who are interested ENOUGH to hear its path and WHERE structure from, I was brought out of Ma’s birth place to study the KNOW how english to NOBLE prize our CONTINUE island sounds with information to AID family in greatness of our MOTHER LAND COUNTRY.

    still STORIES continue to COME OUT to INSPIRE the GENERATION continuing!.

    DPAL.

  5. avatar jayfoo says:

    KOOL, well maybe i could do a lil research myself, after a trip in samoa a few years ago, we came back with this big old book that is apparently very important. i scanned through it and it starts of in German, then half german half sa lol BUT i know it has a list of every samoan surname and village in Samoa, the history of some important people and families. Theres a lot of photos/pictures aswell.

  6. avatar Tamati Taylor says:

    Talofa Lava, I am really interested to learn as much as I can about Tagata from Samoa and throughout the Pacific, being Maori and Cook Islander, I am always interested to hear about the lifestyles of our neighbours.

    This is a brilliant article and a big Faafetai to you!.

    Tofa Suifua
    Tamati Taylor

  7. Well im am proud of who i am and where i come from. If it wasnt for the Mau group we would of not become independant. It is very sad to hear tha New Zealand soldiers open fired to the peaceful champaign. But it is all about forgiveness. In the mau group My Great Uncle TUPUA TAMASESE who leaded us.. I love Samoa and my culture.

  8. avatar Taule'ale'a says:

    Very poignant HGG and much appreciation for the sharing. It goes without saying as I ponder such time in our history. I was like, yes the brothers had it goin on and much kudos for them for what they have accomplished. But I’ve always thought, you know (and I shouldn’t really coin the word ‘behind’ in this instance) what, behind these great and brave men, were equally great, brave, fiercely loyal, caring women :) Thoroughly enjoyed this.

    Ia manuia

  9. behind a good man, is a good woman. As we live in this beautiful country, we have discovered numerous of changes which we hardly overcome. As i search for Tupua
    Tamasese Lealofi iii, i came accross with this information which is very helpful to me as an educational teenager, therefore i would like to express you my heartfelf appreciation for sharing your tremendous thoughts about this history of our beloved country of SAMOA. May the Lord be with us all, Amen.

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