Things You Never Knew About The First Woman To Drive A Car In Nigeria

Francis Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas was born on 25 October 1900, in Abeokuta, to Chief Daniel Olumeyuwa Thomas (1869-1954) and Lucretia Phyllis Omoyeni Adeosolu (1874-1956) of the Jibolu-Taiwo family.

Her father was a son of a returned slave, Ebenezer Sobowale Thomas, from Sierra Leone (see Nova Scotian Settlers), who traced his ancestral history back to Abeokuta in what is today Ogun State, Nigeria. He became a member of the Anglican faith, and soon returned to the homeland of his fellow Egbas.

She attended Abeokuta Grammar School for her secondary education, and later went to England for further studies. She soon returned to Nigeria and became a teacher. On 20 January 1925, she married the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. He also defended the commoners of his country, and was one of the founders of both the Nigeria Union of Teachers and of the Nigerian Union of Students. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti organized literacy classes for Women in the early 1920s and founded a nursery school in the 1930s. She founded the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club (ALC) for educated women involved in charitable work in 1942. She also started the social Welfare for Market Women club to help educate working-class women (which formed the first adult education programme for women in Nigeria)[

Ransome-Kuti received the national honour of membership in the Order of the Niger 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


  • Took part in the pre-independence conferences that laid the groundwork for Nigeria’s First Republic
  • One of the women appointed to the native House of Chiefs, serving as an Oloye of the Yoruba people
  • Ranking member of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons
  • Treasurer and President Western Women Association of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons
  • Leader of Abeokuta Women’s Union.
  • Leader of Commoners Peoples Party
  • Leader of Nigeria Women’s Union.
  • First woman to drive a car in Nigeria
  • Winner of the Lenin Peace Prize

In old age her activism was overshadowed by that of her three sons, who provided effective opposition to various Nigerian military juntas. In 1978 Ransome-Kuti was thrown from a third-floor window of 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 her death, Fela took her coffin to Dodan Barracks (then Nigeria’s Supreme Military Headquarters), and left it at the gate to shame the government. The invasion, her death, and the movement of the coffin is detailed in his song “Coffin for Head of State”.

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