As the first boarding school expressly for black South African women, as the only
Protestant boarding high school serving black women after the Bantu Education Act of 1953,
and as the alma mater of generations of teachers, health workers, political activists, and
community leaders, Inanda Seminary has long been at the crux of educational visions in
which African women have figured simultaneously as agents of change and forces for stability.
To advance their own goals and to maintain their school, Inanda students and staff have
appealed to a range of patrons—from parents to teachers, from chiefs to colonial
administrators, from American philanthropists to apartheid bureaucrats—and have done so
within the confines of frequently overlapping, occasionally intertwined, and sometimes
mutually unintelligible discourses about the stakes and terms of women’s education. This
study explores how the seemingly impossible balances Inanda women have struck have
continually reshaped the bounds of the possible in their lives, and what their struggles suggest
about the power and limits of schooling in projects of social transformation, social
reproduction, and social control.