March 9, 1986: The demise of "Convention Hannah" Kudjoe

Hannah Kudjoe was almost singlehandedly responsible for agitation leading to the release of the "Big Six" from prison.

From the elaborate funeral program put together by her family shortly after her death in 1986, a few family photographs, interviews with family members and political contemporaries, as well as two short biographical entries appearing in volumes published in Ghana—K. Budu-Acquah’s Toll for the Brave (1988) and Kojo T. Vieta’s The Flagbearers of Ghana (1999), both of which rely heavily on the funeral program—we can reconstruct some of the details of Hannah Kudjoe’s life.10 Born in 1918 in the town of Busua, along the Atlantic coast west of Accra, to a prominent Gold Coast family, she was the tenth child of Mr. and Mrs. John Peter Dadson. She was given the vernacular name Esi Badu, though in political circles after the Second World War she was known as Hannah. After completing Standard 7, she trained as a seamstress and, according to one family member, “earned her living sewing padded covers to keep the contents of teapots warm.”11 After a brief marriage to J. C. Kudjoe, who was a manager at Abontiako gold mines in Tarkwa, Hannah went to stay with her brother, E. K. Dadson, who ran a printing press in Tarkwa. It was while living with her brother that she met Kwame Nkrumah, shortly after he returned in 1947 from a decade of studying abroad in the United States and Britain in order to take up the position of general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). Dadson was a strong UGCC activist and when Nkrumah came to Tarkwa, he lodged at the Dadson house. As recorded by Vieta, at Hannah Kudjoe’s last public speaking engagement—on International Women’s Day in 1986, which was two days before her death—she told a symposium at the Accra Community Center about her entry into politics:

“Somewhere in June 1947, we received a charming gentleman, he was introduced to me by my brother as Kwame Nkrumah, General-Secretary of the UGCC. During the day, my brother went out with Nkrumah to address various meetings of the local UGCC branch in town. . . . One day, as they came back and I was serving Kwame Nkrumah, he asked me why I have not been attending the UGCC meetings in town. I was amazed by his question and I honestly told him I thought politics was only men’s business. For the next twenty or so minutes, Kwame Nkrumah explained to me all they were doing and the importance of everybody, especially women, to get involved. By the time Kwame Nkrumah left. . . my interest was aroused in politics. At work, I began explaining issues to my colleague seamstresses and customers. Whenever I was traveling to visit my dressmaking clients, I talked on trains about the need for our liberation and urging people to join the Tarkwa branch of the UGCC and summoning people together to hear news of the campaign for self-government.


Further reading: Jean Allman - "The disappearing of Hannah Kudjoe"