The Remarkable Story Of Lady Koforowola Ademola

The Remarkable Story Of Lady Koforowola Ademola The First African Woman To Graduate At Oxford University

Pioneering Spirit and Perseverance

In 1935, Lady Kofoworola Ademola etched her name in the annals of history by becoming the first Black African woman to obtain a degree from the prestigious University of Oxford.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, into the Egba royal family, Ademola’s journey to Oxford was nothing short of remarkable.

Challenging Stereotypes and Inspiring Change

Ademola’s time at St Hugh’s College, where she studied English Literature from 1932 to 1935, was not without its challenges.

She faced stereotypes and preconceived notions about African people held by many in 1930s Britain. However, Ademola refused to be defined by these prejudices and used her experiences to inspire change.

“I was regarded as a ‘curio’ or some weird specimen…, not as an ordinary human being,” she recalled, describing the feeling of being “othered” and patronized by those around her.

A Voice for Women’s Education and Empowerment

After obtaining her degree, Ademola returned to Nigeria with a burning desire to advocate for women’s education and empowerment.

She fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher, initially at a prestigious girls’ school in Lagos, before founding two new schools for girls, where she served as both a teacher and a headteacher.

Ademola’s passion for education extended beyond the classroom, as she authored numerous children’s books based on the folklore of West Africa, including “Tortoise and the Clever Ant” and “Tutu and the Magic Gourds.”

A Trailblazer in Advocacy and Reform

Ademola’s impact transcended the realm of education. In 1958, she was elected as the first president of Nigeria’s National Council of Women’s Societies, where she continued to champion the rights and representation of women.

Her pioneering spirit led her to become the first Nigerian woman appointed as Secretary of the Western Region Scholarship Board, a department within the Ministry of Education, and the Director of the Western Region of the Red Cross.

Recognizing a Legacy of Inspiration

Ademola’s remarkable achievements did not go unnoticed. In 1959, she was awarded an MBE in Britain and an Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in Nigeria, recognizing her invaluable contributions to Nigerian society.

In March 2020, St Hugh’s College paid tribute to Ademola’s legacy by unveiling a portrait of her and launching a fund in her honor to support Black graduate students and visiting scholars from Africa.

The college also established the annual “Lady Ademola Lecture” series, delivered by eminent speakers of Black, African, or Caribbean heritage, further cementing her enduring impact on the institution and beyond.