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Cash, Cows, and Bridewealth

Cash, Cows, and Bridewealth

(p.118) Chapter Ten: Cash, Cows, and Bridewealth
Worries of the Heart
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the bridewealth (cows and shillings) received by widowed mothers from their daughters' marriage in the Maragoli community. Widows benefited from the increased bridewealth because more of the marriage price was paid in cash and less in livestock. The women who commanded the highest bridewealth were often those who had received a rudimentary education in domestic science at the Girls Boarding School (GBS) in Kaimosi. The core curriculum at the GBS was intended to help girls fine-tune their domestic skills, in areas such as knitting, hygiene, cooking, and child care. Eventually, more and more educated men believed GBS graduates would keep modern households and improve their sense of respectability. Despite the apparent benefits of the rise in bridewealth payments, there were inevitable conflicts. Parents of brides continued to demand high bridewealth for their daughters, and those who could afford to pay, men like those in the military, happily paid lest they miss out on wives.

Keywords:   bridewealth, cows, shillings, widows, education, Girls Boarding School, Kaimosi, brides, military

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