In The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, women in Gikuyu society are given low status. According to legend, it was not always like that. We learn that there was a time when women ruled the land. When Waiyaki asks his father, Chege, why antelopes don't run away from women but run away from men, Chege replies that women used to rule the land and its men. He tells him that women were harsh and owned everything, and they kept antelopes as domestic animals, like goats. Men resented women's harsh rule, so they got all the women pregnant and overthrew them. The antelopes ran away because women could not manage them. They know women to be weak, and thus they do not fear them. After hearing this story, Waiyaki understands why his mother owns nothing.
Women are shown to care for their children and homes, though they do not have much say in their homes. Muthoni's and Nyambura's mother, Miriamu, understands her daughters' struggles but cannot go against their father's will. This implies that women are under men's authority and have to obey men's decisions. Women also have to bear the consequences of the actions of their children. When Muthoni disappears to get circumcised, her mother takes the responsibility for her daughter's disobedience.