Olufunmilayo Ransom Kuti, iconic Egba woman leader and activist revered in her lifetime as ‘Lioness of Lisabi’ is being honoured today by Google with a doodle on what would have been her 119th birthday.
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.
Her very popular children; Beko, Olikoye and Fela, would all go on to play important roles in education, healthcare, the arts and political activism. The most popular being Afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who used his brand of music to wage war against oppression promotion of Pan-Africanism.
In 1944, she founded the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club (later, the Abeokuta Women’s Union), committed to defending women’s political, social and economic rights, which became one of the most important women’s movements of the twentieth century. Her unwavering commitment to cooperation, solidarity and unity led her to play an active role in politics, notably in the pre-independence constitutional negotiations of 1946.
In 1978 Ransome-Kuti was thrown from a third-floor window in her son Fela’s compound, a commune known as the Kalakuta Republic, when it was stormed by one thousand armed military personnel. She lapsed into a coma in February of that year and died on 13 April 1978 as a result of her injuries.
After Ransome-Kuti’s death, Fela, his enfant terrible musician son, took her coffin and travelled nearly twenty kilometres to Dodan Barracks in Lagos (then Nigeria’s Supreme Military Headquarters), leaving the coffin at the gate in an attempt to shame the government. The invasion, her death, and the movement of the coffin is detailed in his song “Coffin for Head of State”