Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti was a powerful force to reckon with during her time. She was one of the most prominent women leaders of her generation.
In 1947, she was described by the West African Pilot as as the “Lioness of Lisabi” for her leadership of the women of the Egba people on a campaign against their random taxation which led to the resignation of the high king Oba Ademola II in 1949.
Olufunmilayo was known for being a very strong political activist as she advocated for the right of Nigerian women.
Born as Francis Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas on the 25th October 1900, in Abeokuta, she attended the Abeokuta Grammar school for secondary education, and later went to England for further studies.
She soon returned to Nigeria and became a teacher. On the 20th, January 1925, Olufunmilayo married Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti.
Olufunmilayo was a teacher, political campaigner, women’s rights activist and traditional aristocrat of Nigeria.
She founded an organization for women in Abeokuta, with over 20,000 members which comprises of both the educated and non-educated.
With this organisation, she protested laws that were against women in her community.
In 1949, she led a protest against the Alake of Egbaland, presenting documents claiming abuse of authority by the Alake, who had been granted the right to collect the taxes by the Government of the United Kingdom.
She also saw to the elimination of separate tax rates for women.
In the 1950s, she was one of the few women elected to the house of chiefs.
In 1953, she founded the Federation of Nigerian Women Societies, and later formed an alliance with the Women’s International Democratic Federation.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti campaigned for women’s votes and was the treasurer and subsequent president of the Western NCNC women’s Association.
She founded the Egba or Abeokuta Women’s Union and organised trainings for illiterate market women while she continued to campaign against taxes and price controls.
Before independence, she founded the Commoners Peoples Party and was one of the delegates who negotiated Nigeria’s independence with the British government.
As she grew old, her activism was overshadowed by that of her three sons, who provided effective opposition to various Nigerian military rule.
She was the mother of the activists Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a musician; Beko Ransome-Kuti, a doctor; and Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a doctor and health minister.
In 1978, Funmilayo was thrown from a third-floor window of her son Fela’s compound, Kalakuta Republic, when it was stormed by one thousand armed military personnel.
She went into a coma in February of that year, and died on 13 April 1978, as a result of her injuries.
Ransome-Kuti received the national honor of membership in the Order of Nigeria in 1965.
The University of Ibadan bestowed upon her the honorary doctorate of laws in 1968.
She also held a seat in the Western House of Chiefs of Nigeria as an oloye of the Yoruba people.
Read a very interesting summary of her work at unesdoc.unesco.org