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Article

Meghan Elisabeth Healy

liberal historian and politician active in South Africa, was born Violet Margaret Livingstone Hodgson on 11 January 1894 in Glasgow, Scotland. Her father, John Hodgson, emigrated to the Orange Free State, South Africa, shortly after Margaret’s birth, working as a merchant while Margaret’s mother, Lillias, raised their three young children in Scotland. After fighting against the British with the Irish Brigade in the Anglo-Boer War, John Hodgson went to the Atlantic island of Saint Helena as a prisoner of war. When war ended in 1902, officials repatriated him, but he was ostracized in his community. Six months after his return, he illegally boarded a ship bound for Port Elizabeth, where he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1904, John Hodgson’s family joined him in the Cape. He harbored liberal political beliefs, supporting legal equality and the extension of a nonracial franchise in southern Africa.

After attending the Holy Rosary ...

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Owen J. M. Kalinga

Malawi's first female president, and the second female head of state in postcolonial Africa, was born Joyce Mtila on 12 April 1950 in Ntogolo Village Traditional Authority Malemia Zomba District Ntogolo the site of the Domasi Church of Scotland Mission and from the early 1930s the home of the Jeanes Training College was one of the centers of education in colonial Malawi Her father Gray Mtila was in the colonial police service serving for a long time in Zomba town and her mother Edith was a homemaker and later a retail assistant in one of the Peoples Trading Center establishments Joyce Mtila attended primary schools in Zomba district and after completing high school at Providence Secondary School she trained in office management and worked for some years during which time she married Roy Kachale The union produced three children For part of the 1970s the Kachales lived in Nairobi ...

Article

Gerhard Seibert

politician and foreign minister of São Tomé and Príncipe, was born Alda Bandeira Tavares Vaz da Conceição on 22 September 1949. She was the daughter of a male nurse and his wife on the Àgua-Izé estate, Santana District, São Tomé Island. She married Noberto Costa Alegre, with whom she has two daughters. Bandeira attended primary school and secondary school in São Tomé and Luanda, Angola, respectively. From 1972 to 1974 she studied German philology at Lisbon University.

During her country’s decolonization process, following the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974 in Portugal, Bandeira became one of the prominent student members of the radical Associação Cívica pró-MLSTP, which struggled for her country’s total independence from Portugal under the leadership of the Liberation Movement of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP, founded in 1972), whose leaders were exiled at that time in Libreville, Gabon. However, in March 1975 owing to a ...

Article

Elisabeth Bekers

daughter of El Hadj Ibrahima Sory Barry of Dara (1884?–1978), the last almamy, or king, of the Fulani of Fouta Djalon, and his third wife, Diello, was born in Mamou, Republic of Guinea (Guinea-Conakry), in 1948 Kesso meaning virgin in Fulani enjoyed a happy childhood in the royal slave sustained and polygamous household of her father until the age of six when she moved to Sogotoro with his authoritarian sister For four years her aunt tried to reform her impulsive headstrong niece through hard work and discipline but to little avail Upon her return to Mamou Barry quickly made her reputation as a revolutionary princess She joined her brothers in typically male activities such as hunting and tax collecting frequenting the cinema and joyriding in her father s car once almost killing a child On her own initiative she attended Mamou s qurʾanic school and its public primary ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

first female prime minister of Senegal, was born in the coastal city of Saint Louis, Senegal. She came from a family of lawyers, including her father, one brother who worked for the Supreme Court of Senegal, and another brother who received an advanced law degree, became a professor of international law, and eventually became the head of the University of Dakar. Boye herself attended primary school in her home city before graduating from the Lycée Faidherbe secondary school and enrolling in an undergraduate law degree program at the University of Dakar in 1963 She then studied law at the Centre National d Études Judiciaries CNEJ in Paris Once she finished her studies in France she returned to Senegal and began to work as an assistant prosecutor for the government Boye became an assistant judge in a court at Dakar and later rose to be president of the Senegalese Court ...

Article

Agnes Leslie

first Botswana female to serve as a cabinet minister and member of parliament in Botswana, was born in Serowe, when Botswana was called the Bechuanaland Protectorate. She was the daughter of Moruti Tibe Chiepe and S. T. Chiepe (née Sebina). Her father died when she started primary school. Her father’s cousins wanted her to leave school and get married, but her mother insisted that she stay in school. Chiepe attributes her success to her mother’s determination to see her educated. She attended Serowe primary school near her home, finishing in the late 1930s with high honors She was the best student in the country and was offered a scholarship to study at Tiger Kloof Post Secondary School near Vryburg in the Cape Colony South Africa Chiepe was one of the first girls to attend the school which was three hours from her home The scholarship lessened the financial pressure ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

Gambian teacher, feminist, speech expert, and politician, was born Cecelia Mary Ruth Rendall in 1921 in Bathurst (now Banjul, Gambia) into a staunch Methodist family headed by Emmanuel Rendall. She attended the Methodist Girls’ High School in Bathurst, where she was a star pupil, winning the top national prize in the Cambridge Certificate Exams in 1937.

Cole developed passion for drama, public speaking, and performance, which would drive her public career. For two decades, starting in 1964, she trained and mentored Radio Gambia staff in speech and voice techniques, thereby helping develop a whole generation of Gambian broadcasters. She was an advocate for drama teaching and public performances in schools and viewed drama and public speech as a tool for building self-confidence and motivation in pupils for later leadership service to the nation. She helped popularize drama competitions in Gambian schools.

Cole was ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

politician and historian of the Ivory Coast, was born on 13 March 1935 in the southern Ivorian town of Bingerville. In her youth, Dagri-Diabaté attended primary schools in the Ivory Coast and finished her secondary education in Senegal. She then earned a doctorate in history from the University of Paris IV–Sorbonne.

After she completed her doctorate, she became a history professor at the University of Abidjan in the capital of the Ivory Coast in 1968 and remained there until 1995. Dagri-Diabaté was a founding member of the Association of African Historians. From 1974 to 1975, she served on the editorial board of the historical journal Afrika Zamani and was the head researcher at the Foundation Félix Houphouët-Boigny from 1976 to 1980. During this time, she wrote a number of studies on the experiences of African women and on precolonial and colonial African history. Her first book, La ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

, Cameroonian business and political leader, was born in the western region of Menoua to a Bamileke family of modest means. Her family encouraged her to work, and she entered the tourism business in the southern Cameroonian port city of Douala at the age of twelve. In 1967 Foning began her long career as an entrepreneur in Douala by creating a restaurant, named New Style. An entire neighborhood of Douala bore this name in the early twenty-first century. Foning soon extended her activity into taxis by buying one car. Foning managed to guide this fledgling operation into a large business, and she had over 150 taxis in her network after a few years. She formed a gravel company, Les Graviers Unis. Her empire eventually included the Socamac food import-export company, the Ovicam import-export firm, and the Anflo furniture business, which eventually sent exports to the United States and Europe.

Although ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

Gambian merchant and the first Gambian woman to enter active politics, was born Hannah Johnson on 14 January 1893 in Bathurst (present-day Banjul) to C. C. Johnson, a Krio civil servant on postings from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Elizabeth Johnson, a schoolteacher. Forster attended St. Mary’s Primary School in Banjul, and in 1907 she proceeded to Freetown to attend high school, as there was no secondary school in Gambia. The death of her mother forced her to cut short her schooling in 1911 to become a teacher in her former school in Banjul. She married in 1913.

When her husband died leaving her with two children Forster left her teaching job to venture into trading She owned shops in Banjul and in the Gambia River ports of Kaur Kuntaur and Kartong Unlike other Banjul merchants who traded upriver only during the five months of the groundnuts trade season from December ...

Article

Dag Henrichsen

Namibian politician and cabinet minister, was born 11 October 1952 as Pendukeni Kaulinge in the village of Uukwandongo in the Omusati region (northern Namibia). She was married to Joseph Ithana (d. 2008), a former high-ranking Namibian civil servant, with whom she has several children. Iivula-Ithana grew up in war-torn northern Namibia, an area occupied until the country’s independence in 1990 by the South African army.

Like many pupils and students at the time, she early on joined the Youth League of the dominant Namibian liberation movement, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO). In 1974 she fled into exile and soon became one of the first female soldiers of SWAPO’s People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, which since 1966 waged a war of liberation and independence against South Africa s occupying forces from bases in Zambia and Angola She quickly rose to prominence when she was elected secretary general of ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

Gambian politician, women's rights activist, playwright, and nurse, was born in May 1924 in Banjul, Gambia, to Sir John Mahoney, the first Speaker of the Gambian Legislature, and Lady Hannah Mahoney, a typist. She attended St Joseph's Convent and the Methodist Girls’ High School in Banjul, where she sat her Cambridge School Leaving Certificate Examination in 1942.

From 1942 to 1946 she worked as a nurse assistant at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Banjul, before traveling to England in 1946 to study medicine at the Royal Infirmary, Bristol, where she obtained her State Registered Nurse (SRN) certificate in 1953. On returning to Gambia, she was posted as a nursing sister to Basse, 400 kilometers from Bathurst, where she met and married Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Their marriage at Basse in February 1955 was described in the Bathurst press as a unique occasion which ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

illiterate Gambian woman who became a major power broker in the Gambia Protectorate in the 1910s, was born in Njau Village, Upper Saloum District, around 1880. Her name is also spelled Fatu or Fatoo. Little is know of her early years except that she was of Wolof parentage and that her first marriage was in 1900. In 1910 she divorced her first husband and married the British traveling commissioner for Gambia’s North Bank Province, J. C. McCallum, according to Muslim rites. Fatou used this liaison to exert control on the running of the province. Indeed, she wielded so much influence that she was nicknamed “Queen Victoria.” She exacted annual coos (couscous) and rice levies on all farms for her use.

She taught McCallum Wolof and the Wolof grammar and dictionary he subsequently wrote were for many years the standard reference for colonial officials To strengthen her influence on ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Tanzanian nationalist and one of the first women to serve in that country’s independent government, was born near Kilimanjaro to a farming family. Her full name was Lucy Selina Lameck Somi. Her family was politically active in the anticolonial struggle and hosted Julius Nyerere, later Tanzania’s first president, in the early years of his political activism. Lameck attended the Kilema Catholic Mission School and then trained as a nurse, finishing in 1950. She did not want to work in the discriminatory British colonial medical system, and so pursued further training as a secretary. She was employed by the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union from 1955 to 1957, and began to get involved with the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). In 1957 her political activities helped her win a scholarship from the British Trade Union Congress to study economics and politics at Ruskin College at Oxford in England While ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

pioneering Gambian student, civil servant, and political leader, was born Hannah Small, on 1 August 1884. She was of Aku or Krio origins, was raised in a staunch Methodist family in Bathurst (now Banjul), and attended the city's Wesley School, where she attained the highest possible grade, Standard Seven, in 1902. She was the first woman in Gambia to do so. At that time, there were no secondary schools in Bathurst. The pursuit of a secondary education required travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone, which only a few families could afford. Pupils in Bathurst were thus limited to a Standard Seven education, which enabled them to enter the job market as clerks for the European firms or in the government's clerical service.

Hannah Small grew up at a time when Bathurst was struggling to emerge from a time of social and economic depression created in the ...

Article

Florence M. Margai

one of the few female traditional rulers in the predominantly patriarchal society of Sierra Leone, was born on 25 March 1935 in Boma Sakrim, a small seaside village in Pujehun District. Her mother was Keturah Kullah Massallay, a descendant from the village of Basale, also within this district. Her father, once a catechist of the Anglican faith and a schoolteacher, believed strongly in educating children beyond the elementary school level. At an early age, Matilda was sent to Freetown, the nation’s capital city, which was known for having the best educational institutions in West Africa. In Freetown, she resided with a friend of the family, Alice Campbell, while she completed her primary and secondary education. She later enrolled in the Union College for Teachers and graduated with a teacher’s certificate in 1961.

Following her graduation she married Albert T Lansana a registered nursing practitioner and the couple had eight ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

First Lady of the United States of America, lawyer, and healthcare executive was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago's South Side to working class parents. Her father, Fraser Robinson III, was a city employee, who worked tending boilers at a water-filtration plant in the city until his death due to complications from multiple sclerosis. Her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, worked as a secretary for the Spiegel catalogue store before becoming a-stay-at-home mother. Michelle's older brother, Craig, born in 1962, would, like his sister, graduate from Princeton University. He later became the head basketball coach at Oregon State University.

As Barack Obama noted in his March 2008 speech on race at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, his wife “carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners.” And, indeed, genealogical research has revealed that Michelle Obama's earliest known paternal ancestor, her great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Known affectionately as Bené, Benedita da Silva is one of Brazil's foremost political figures. Born and raised in Brazil's Favelas, or squatter settlements, she became a leading community organizer. In 1980 she helped found the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (the Workers' Party, or PT), a broad-based coalition of workers, grassroots organizers, and intellectuals. Six years later she became the first black woman to enter the Brazilian Congress, where she was one of only 26 women and seven blacks among 559 deputies. Silva has consistently fought to prioritize racial, class, and gender issues within both the PT and Brazil's political institutions, and has strongly opposed discrimination against women and blacks. Indeed, in her opening speech before Congress in 1986 she stated If our opinion is not taken into account and we women are not guaranteed equality we won t feel obligated to respect your laws We are ...