Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, MON ( /ˌfʊnmiˈlaɪjoʊ ˈrænsəm ˈkuːti/; born Frances Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas; 25 October 1900 – 13 April 1978), also known as Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti, was a Nigerian educator, political campaigner, suffragist, and women’s rights activist.
Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, Ransome-Kuti was the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School. 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 fought 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”,:77 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’ criticisms of Nigeria’s military governments. She died aged 77 after receiving injuries from 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.