In their honour, we remember
“We love our country, our own people, our own civilization and our own social and political systems better than any others less known to us.
We are a passive people but we are determined and resolute.” (Field 1991, p. 194 from Women’s Mau to Forbes July 1930 IT 1/23/8)
This is the plea written by Samoan women to the New Zealand colonial administrators during the height of the Mau movement from 1926-1936.
This International Women’s Day, we pause to recognize the contributions of the Women’s Mau, who have been underscored in the history books but gave just as selflessly as their male counterparts so that their descendents could live freely.
At the height of the historical period, the Women’s Mau gathered 8,000 supporters and were commonly referred to as the “Female Peace Warriors of Western Samoa.”
Women such as Paisami Tuimalealiifano, wife of Chief Tuimalealiifano, Faamusami Faumuina , wife of High Chief Faumuina Fiame and daughter of the late King Malietoa Laupepa and Ala Tamasese, widow of High Chief Tamasese Lealofi III, were the backbone of the movement while their men were recovering from the brutal attack that was known as “Black Saturday.”
“The Women’s Mau emerged days after the men retreated into the hills to avoid prosecution, enabling open political Mau activities to be continued at the dismay of Colonel Allen’s administration (Field 1991, 177, Hempenstall and Rutherford 1984,41, Meleisea 1987, 138, Parr 1979,36).”
“They held meetings in Vaimoso and Lepea villages, marched in processions, drafted numerous anti-government petitions, raised funds necessary to support the Mau newspaper in New Zealand, and wore the Mau uniform (Hempenstall and Rutherford 1984,41).
“Led by Ala Tamasese (widow of High Chief Tamasese Lealofi III), Rosabel Nelson (wife of G.P. Nelson and daughter of H.J. Moors a prominent European businessman), Paisami Tuimalealiifano (wife of Chief Tuimalealiifano), and MacQuoid26 Faamusami Faumuina (wife of High Chief Faumuina Fiame and daughter of the late King Malietoa Laupepa), four leading ladies of Samoa, the Women’s Mau was a movement of tremendous traditional power that has been greatly underestimated by historians and by the New Zealand administration (Field, 1991, 177, O.E Nelson correspondence to H.E. Holland 08/13/1930, Samoan Petition 1931, 105). Olaf Frederick Nelson sent this New Zealand Post Office. (MacQuoid, 1995, 20, The Women’s Mau: Female Peace Warriors in Western Samoa).”
Recognition of women’s contribution in such an incredible, historical era for Samoa is imperative and relevant now more than ever for the women of this generation.
It is said,“ Without the past, there is no future.”