Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru; The Woman In A Man’s Body At A Peaceful Strike

Kikuyu warrior and his wife - early 20th century

Once upon a time, in the land of Weithaga, Murang’a, Kenya, there lived a Kikuyu woman by the name Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru, who died on March 16, 1922. Yet the date on which she was born unto this earth is not known though. She was born at Weithaga, Murang’a in Kenya. Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru’s death was not a natural one but then she was shot and killed. Before the occurrence of her death, she lived with Elizabeth Waruiru who was her own stepdaughter in Nairobi, Kenya. Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru was a powerful political activist who led a protest after the arrest of Harry Thuku on March 14, 1922 due to an increase number of his supporters and as such she is commemorated by many up to date for the indisputable role she played. When Harry Thuku was arrested, East African Association (EAA), a Kenyan political organization called a strike and, thousands of people marched in a peaceful manner to the police station at Nairobi, Kenya to demonstrate and demand his release.

An artistic impression of Mary Muthoni Nyanguri

On March 16, 1922 which happened to be in the morning, six men were chosen from the people to meet with Sir Charles Bowring who was then the Colonial Secretary because he assured them that Harry Thuku was not in danger and he will be freed immediately he was given a full hearing by the government. These chosen people were then encouraged to go and tell their supporters to call off the demonstration and go. But then many saw this as hopeless. A group of women, who were so much agitated obeyed not the words they heard and kept on pushing harder to demand for Harry Thuku. Sadly and shamefully to the shock of all, the men begun to disperse.

It was then that Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru got angrily charged and infront of the people, she raised her dress over her head, cried extremely and said, “You take my dress and give me your trousers, you men are cowards. What are you waiting for? Our leader is in there. Let’s get him!” Though she knew that her action was against the norms of Kikuyu called ‘guturamira ng’ania’ and considered as insult, she cared not since she wanted the men to know they are cowards for not demanding for the release of their fellow man who was their leader. Her actions taken gave her fellow women the courage to assist her. Thus, they moved forward further until the police started firing. In a moment of tears, Mary was the first to be killed among the women. Though, a lot of women were killed too, little or no information was gathered to be narrated.

There were an immediate changes to the colonial regime after her demise. In folklore, Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru is remembered by many as a heroine. Songs and poems were sang and written and/or spoken respectively to recall her.

Poems like Mother Afrika’s Matriots and Kenyan Theater Production, ‘Too Early for Birds’, have her featured. The powerful famous ‘Kanyegenuri’ song sang by the Mau Mau to remember here can’t be forgotten.


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