Monica Wilson

Monica Wilson in 1948 (Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)On 26 October 1982, South African anthropologist Monica Wilson, née Hunter, died in Hogsback, Cape Province, at the age of 74.  She was the first woman to be appointed as a full professor at a South African university.

Wilson was born to missionary parents in Lovedale in the Cape Colony. She studied history at Girton College, Cambridge, before gaining a Cambridge doctorate in anthropology in 1934.

In 1935 she married fellow anthropologist Godfrey Wilson, with whom she undertook fieldwork with the Nyakyusa in Tanzania between 1935 and 1938. The couple assembled a rich collection of ethnographic data. Their joint fieldwork was written up by Monica in four volumes published in the 1950s, delayed as it had been by her husband’s death in 1944.

Wilson taught at Fort Hare from 1944 to 1946, at Rhodes University from 1947 to 1951, and was Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town from 1952 until her retirement in 1973.

Wilson's home in Hogsback, Cape Province is now a research centre for the University of Fort Hare.

(Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 19 October 2023)

Selected publications

The fires beneath : the life of Monica Wilson, South African anthropologist / Sean Morrow. - Cape Town : Penguin Books, 2016

Monica Wilson 1908–82 : an Appreciation / David Brokensha.
In:  Africa, 53(3), 83-87, 1983

Religion and social change in Southern Africa : anthropological essays in honour of Monica Wilson / Monica Wilson and others. - Cape Town : David Philip ; London : Collings, 1975

Religion and the transformation of society : a study in social change in Africa / Monica Hunter Wilson. - Cambridge : University Press, 1971

The Oxford history of South Africa / Monica Hunter Wilson and others. - Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1969-1971

Langa : a study of social groups in an African township / Monica Hunter Wilson; Archie Mafeje. - Cape Town [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1963

Rituals of kinship among the Nyakyusa / Monica Hunter Wilson. - London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1957

Good company : a study of Nyakyusa age-villages / Monica Hunter Wilson. - London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1951

The analysis of social change : based on observations in Central Africa / Godfrey Wilson; Monica Hunter Wilson. - Cambridge [etc.] : Cambridge University Press, 1945

Reaction to conquest : effects of contact with Europeans on the Pondo of South Africa / Monica Hunter Wilson. - London : Oxford University Press, 1936

See also the Monica and Godfrey Wilson Papers at the University of Cape Town Libraries.

Timeline of South African women anthropologists via Wikidata and DBpedia