Name: Funmilayo Ransome Kuti

Alive: 1900-1978

Bio: Born 1900, Nigeria - Known for being a leading advocate of women’s rights during the first half of the 20th century. Funmilayo was the first female student at the Abeokuta Grammar school and later went on to study in England (1919-1923). Her involvement in women’s rights started in 1932, when Funmilayo decided to help organize the Abeokuta Ladies Club (ALC) – a charitable group made up of Western-educated Christian women. In 1944 the group started to admit impoverished, illiterate women, who were commonly Market Women (Women vendors). By 1946 the ALC changed its name to the Abeokuta’s Women’s Union (AWU) and made the decision to open up its membership to all Women. The significance of Ransome Kuti is her commitment to become the first President of AWU in 1946 and under her leadership, the organisation became national – changing the name to Nigerian Women’s Union in 1949. The organisation campaigned against the government and led large demonstrations against price controls and successfully demonstrated against separate tax rates for women. The group wanted increased opportunities for women in education and in the provision of healthcare. In 1953 the Federation of Nigerian Women societies’ became known with the women’s Democratic Federation, with Ransome Kuti being elected vice President. This involved her lecturing in different countries about the conditions of Nigerian women. Known for uniting women across all social groups, despite her high status and receiving numerous awards including the Lenin Peace Price.

Quotes:

“As for the charges against me, I am unconcerned I am beyond their timid lying morality and so I am beyond caring”

“No member of the union should think herself better than the others. All must move freely and happily together”

Popular Culture:

“October 1” – film, 2014

“Women in African History” – comic strip by UNESCO, 2014

Further Reading:

  • Cheryl Johnson-Odim, - “For their freedoms: The anti-imperialist and international feminist activity of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria” in Circling the Globe: International Feminism Volume 32 Issue 1, 51–59 (2009)
  • Cheryl Johnson-Odim and Nina Emma Mba, For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria (2001)
  • Jeje Sola, Women and Politics in Nigeria: A Biography of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (2013)