Yaa Asantewa was the Queen Mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire during the late 18th and early 19th century, as well as leader of the Ashanti rebellion against the British Empire.
Born in 1840, Yaa Asantewa played a supporting role in the royal family of Ashanti Empire (located in modern-day Ghana) as ‘Queen Mother’. Following the exile of her grandson King Prempeh I by the British in 1896, Yaa Asantewa inherited leadership of the empire as regent in his stead.
In 1900, the British governor-general of the Gold Coast, Frederick Hodgson, met with local leaders at Kumasi. He demanded that the Golden Stool, the divine throne and symbol of the Ashanti nation, be turned over to him as a recognition of British power. While some of the leaders considered this, Yaa Asantewa, as Guardian of the Golden Stool, reprimanded them, saying:
“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
Yaa Asantewa then assembled an army of 5000 volunteers to resist the British forces, inflicting heavy losses upon them and forcing them to retreat to the fortified British offices at Kumasi. With the offices defended by machine guns and 500 Nigerian Hausas, Yaa Asantewa’s forces chose to instead lay siege to the British, cutting telegraph wires and blocking supply routes. Two days before the British would have been forced to surrender, a relief column sent by Hodgson broke the siege and forced the Ashanti to retreat.
Despite having been able to harass the British forces from several well-defended forts, the Ashanti Empire was eventually defeated and absorbed into the British Empire in 1902. As rulers before her had been, Yaa Asantewaa was exiled to the Seychelles, where she remained until her death in the early 1920s. In 1924 Prempeh I was finally allowed to return to Ashanti, bringing Yaa Asantewa’s remains with him to receive a royal burial on her native soil.
“If you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
~ Yaa Asantewaa
Nana Yaa Asantewaa (c. 1840–17 October 1921) (pronounced YAH a-SAN-te-WAH) was a warrior, queen mother and one of the Africa`s great freedom fighters. She was arguably Ghana and Africa`s greatest fearless female warrior during colonial times. Yaa Asantewa who was the queen mother of Ejisu (Edweso) in the Ashanti Empire—now part of modern-day Ghana—by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, the Ejisuhene—or ruler of Ejisu. In 1900, she led the Ashanti (Asante) rebellion known as the War of the Golden Stool against British colonialism when the British Empire after looting Ashanti Kingdom and exiling King of Asante Prempeh I, dared to ask for their Golden Stool which symbolizes their soul as Nation and an ethnic group. She is popularly referred to as "Africa`s Joan of Arc.” When men panic and flee from danger, Yaa Asantewa laughs and face it squarely!