October 17, 1921: Yaa Asantewaa, Queenmother of Ejisu dies in the Seychelles

Yaa Asantewaa, who led the formidable but ultimately unsuccessful resistance to British colonial rule of the Asante Kingdom from April 1900 to March 1901 was born at Besease, a small town south of Ejisu about 12 miles from Kumasi the capital of the Asante Kingdom. She was a member of Asona royal clan and her brother Nana Kwesi Afrane Okpese was one of the two principal war leaders who supported the installment of Kwaku Dua III also known as Prempeh I against the rival faction led by Twereboana and his supporters from Mampong, Nsuta and Kokofu. Her brother was the protector of the Golden stool of the Asante nation. In 1887 when the female stool of Ejisu became vacant, Nana Kwesi Afrane Okpese, appointed his sister Yaa Asantewaa as the Queen Mother of Ejisu.

In 1896 after the British arrested the Asantehene, his mother and other Kings and chiefs of Kumasi, including her grandson Kwesi Afrane I and took them first to Elmina Castle and then to Sierra Leone for imprisonment, she became actively involved in the struggle. With the arrest of her grandson who was the Chief of Ejisu, she became both king and queen of Ejisu, as well as a guardian of the Golden stool. It is in this position that she was assembled along with some kings of Asante on 28 March 1900, when the British governor issued a series of announcements including the search of the Golden stool.

After the Asante Kingdom was charged with an indemnity to pay for the Treaty of Fomena and that the Golden Stool would have to be surrendered to the British authorities, that she said at a meeting at the home of the principal chiefs of Kumasi that "How can a proud and brave people like that Asante sit back and look while white men took away the King and Chiefs and then humiliate them with demands for the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool only means money to the white man. They searched and dug everywhere for it. I shall not pay one predawn to the Governor. If you the Chiefs of Asante are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loin cloths for my undergarments". With this, she threw the Kingdom of Asante into a war of resistance against the British, which started on April 2, 1900 and lasted till March 3, 1901 when Yaa Asantewaa was arrested, effectively ending all the armed resistance.

Though folklore says she was betrayed by bounty hunters, later scholarship suggests that she surrendered herself to the British to spare her daughter and grandchildren, who are being held hostage in the fort at Kumasi. By the time she was locked into a cell in the fort in Kumasi on March 3, 1901, 45 other leaders of the Asante resistance had already been arrested. She and 15 other leaders of the rebellion, as well as many of their dependents, were exiled to the Seychelles on 22 May 1901 where she died 20 years later. Her remains and those of other exiles were repatriated to Asante and given royal burials there when Prempeh I returned from exile in 1924.

In 1960 Yaa Asantewaa Girls’ Secondary School was established in her honor. A museum in her memory was also established in Ejisu.