This article analyses some judicial cases discussed in Ghana’s colonial courts in the months immediately after the proclamation of the Gold Coast Slave-Dealing Abolition Ordinance and the Gold Coast Emancipation Ordinance (1874). The article highlights, in particular, the slave women’s attempts to improve their status and explains why these efforts often failed. The traditional political system on the one hand and colonial policy on the other both wished to maintain slave women’s state of dependence. An important aim of colonial policy, in fact, was to maintain the "traditional" family organisation, on which colonial domination was based. The logic of debt concealed within the repayment of dowries and the construction of the category "native marriage" forced women back into bondage even when they succeeded in changing their status.
Keywords: Ghana, slavery, pawnship, emancipation, marriage, gender