Nana Yaa Asantewaa (c. 1840 – 17 October 1921) was appointed queen mother of Ejisu of the Ashanti Empire—now part of modern-day Ghana—by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, the Ejisuhene “ruler of Ejisu”.
Prior to European colonization, the Ashanti people developed an influential West African empire. Asantewaa was the Gatekeeper of the “Golden Stool” (Sika ‘dwa) during this powerful Ashanti Confederacy (Asanteman), an independent federation of Asanti tribal families that ruled from 1701 to 1896.
In 1900, British colonial governor Frederick Hodgson called a meeting in the city of Kumasi of the Ashantehene local rulers. At the meeting, Hodgson stated that King Prempeh I would continue to suffer an exile from his native land and that the Ashanti people were to surrender to the British their historical, ancestral Golden Stool – a dynastic symbol of the Ashanti empire.
In the evening the chiefs held a secret meeting at Kumasi. Yaa Asantewaa the Queen Mother of Ejisu, was at the meeting. The chiefs were discussing how they should make war on the white men and force them to bring back the Asantehene. Yaa Asantewaa saw that some of the chiefs were afraid. Some said that there should be no war. They should rather go to beg the Governor to bring back the Asantehene King(Nana) Prempeh.
Then suddenly Yaa Asantewaa stood up and spoke. This was what she said:
Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King.If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot.No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.
Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be!I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
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