Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



"All That is Meant by Citizenship: Women, Social Work and Development in Ghana, 1945- 1970s," charts a new social and intellectual history of decolonization and development in Ghana. It focuses on the Federation of Gold Coast (Ghana) Women, an organization of educated, urban and upper middle-class women. Emerging at a time when social work had assumed new urgency and relevance in state-making, Federation leaders laid claim to considerable expertise in this field to define the social problems of the emerging nation-state of Ghana, especially those affecting women and children. The Federation thus became embroiled in contests for power on a national and an international stage, making it one of the most influential yet controversial women�s organizations in Ghana�s history. Yet, both social work and women have been overlooked in the wider Africanist historiography on decolonization and development. The result, which has trickled into accounts of the history of women�s work in Africa, has been the privileging of missionaries and European women on one hand, and a historiographical tradition in which the story of post war development is considered as distinct from that of African women�s reform work in the post- colonial era on the other. In this study, I pull these historiographical threads together as I examine the Federation as an embodiment of the post-war convergence of social work, decolonization and development in Africa (Ghana). The study brings the untapped private records of the Federation, family histories, interviews and the recently released records of the Department of Social Welfare into conversation with a number of primary documents produced by colonial and postcolonial institutions to introduce a gendered perspective to the history of decolonization and development in post-war Africa. In foregrounding the nuances in the Federation�s modernist vision, my project makes a case for a class-based analysis of African women�s activism since, for the most part, women tend to be examined as an undifferentiated whole. Most importantly, it demonstrates that social work�as a profession and a liberal statist project�created space for educated women to shape the discourse and practice of development in post-colonial Ghana. It places women social workers and those they set out to �uplift� in conversation with political elites of the Ghanaian decolonizing state, western development experts and Cold War powers and actors, all of whom were involved in the process to define what it meant to be a proper Ghanaian citizen. While my project is not a traditional institutional of social work, it nonetheless shows how social work interfaced with and spoke to the growing emphasis on social change, modernization and development in Ghana after the Second World War.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Jean M. Allman Timothy Parsons

Committee Members

Mary Ann Dzuback, Jonathan Fenderson, Andrea Friedman,

Available for download on Monday, July 06, 2122