Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti from Nigeria

Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (1900–1978) was a leading activist during Nigerian women’s anti-colonial struggles. She founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union, one of the most impressive women’s organizations of the twentieth century (with a membership estimated to have reached up to 20,000 women), which fought to protect and further the rights of women.

AFRICAN HISTORY

deangichukie

9/2/20220 min read

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Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (1900–1978) was a leading activist during Nigerian women’s anti-colonial struggles. She founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union, one of the most impressive women’s organizations of the twentieth century (with a membership estimated to have reached up to 20,000 women), which fought to protect and further the rights of women.

Fumilayo Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, and was the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School in 1914. In 1919 she left for Wincham Hall School for Girls, Cheshire, England, to pursue her studies. By the time of her return to Nigeria in 1922, no doubt in reaction to the racism she had encountered in Britain, she had dropped her Christian name, Frances Abigail. As a young adult, she worked as a teacher, organizing some of the first preschool classes in the country and arranging literacy classes for lower-income women.

During the 1940s, Ransome-Kuti established the Abeokuta Women’s Union and advocated for women’s rights, demanding better representation of women in local governing bodies and an end to unfair taxes on market women. Described by media as the "Lioness of Lisabi",: she led marches and protests of up to 10,000 women, forcing the ruling Alake to temporarily abdicate in 1949. As Ransome-Kuti’s political influence grew, she took part in the Nigerian independence movement, attending conferences and joining overseas delegations to discuss proposed national constitutions. Spearheading the creation of the Nigerian Women’s Union and the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies, she advocated for Nigerian women’s right to vote and became a noted member of international peace and women's rights movements.

Ransome-Kuti received the Lenin Peace Prize and was awarded membership in the Order of the Niger for her work. In her later years, she supported her sons' criticism of Nigeria's military governments. She died at the age of 77 after being wounded in a military raid on family property. Ransome-Kuti's children included the musician Fela Kuti, doctor and activist Beko Ransome-Kuti, and health minister Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.