Liberia's first female president is known as the "Iron Lady" because of her determination to make her country better. She was a critic of Liberia's military government, was imprisoned twice, and was almost executed. She spent 12 years in exile, during which time she held prominent positions as an economist for the World Bank. She returned to Liberia in 2003. When she was democratically elected president of Liberia In 2006, she also became the first woman ever elected head of state on the continent of Africa. This mother of four grown men and grandmother of six grandchildren used her motherly instincts and sensitivity to help her county rebuild itself. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2011, along with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. They were recognized "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

by Caroline, Julia and Zoe
New Haven County, CT

The authors with President Sirleaf (photograph by K. Dobuler)
The authors with President Sirleaf (photograph by K. Dobuler)

On December 4 , 2005, we got to meet Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who had just been elected the first woman president of Liberia. She is one of the few female heads of a country, and her election encouraged the people of Liberia to see that women can be leaders, too. An economist educated in the US, Johnson has a long history of dedication to her country. She is also dedicated to her family--she is the mother of four children and the grandmother of eight.

We got to meet President Sirleaf at a reception in Milford, CT, where she met with many of her fellow Liberians. She had come to the US on business and to visit her son, a doctor at Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT. Her son organized a large and festive reception, after a lot of people asked to meet her.

At the event, she wore a light blue traditional African dress and headdress. She was very friendly and had extremely neat and pretty handwriting. She shook every single person’s hand and spoke to each one of us personally. She was very thoughtful about what she said to each person.

She told us that she wanted to be President of Liberia so that she could help children. She didn’t plan to go into politics when she was a child, but when she got older, she found a job as Assistant Minister of Finance for Liberia, and despite living in exile for some years, and being jailed for a short time, she continued to do what she thought best for her country.

Aside from running a country, President Sirleaf likes to swim. She is also the mother of four sons and has six grandchildren.

Page created on 5/2/2007 8:28:34 AM

Last edited 10/7/2020 12:31:26 AM

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Related Links

"The Lone Star: The Story of Liberia" - features an essay on the history of the Republic of Liberia, a timeline of major historical events, and resources for educators.
A BBC News story profiling the "Iron Lady"

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