19 Women Who Have Shaped Nigeria’s History Forever

Nigerian women have contributed to the socio-political and economic development of the country in numerous ways.

As part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, we are spotlighting Nigerian women who have made their marks in their different fields at different times with their ‘firsts’.

Here are 19 of them.

1. Ladi Kwali (Nigeria’s First Female To Appear On A Currency Note)

Born in the village of Kwali in the Gwari region of Northern Nigeria in 1925, Ladi was a potter and is the pioneer of modern pottery in Nigeria. She is the first and only female to appear on a Nigerian currency. She appears on the back of the N20 note.

2. Virginia Etiaba (Nigeria’s First Female Governor)

Virginia Etiaba is the first female governor in Nigeria’s history. She was born in 1942 in Nnewi, Anambra State and was a teacher by profession. In March 2006, she resigned as the proprietress to take the position of the Deputy Governor of Anambra State.

She was sworn in on November 3, 2006, as governor of Anambra State following the impeachment of Peter Obi, the previous governor over alleged misconduct thereby making history.

Her stay was however short-lived as Obi, was re-instated three months after on February 9, 2007. She went back to being the deputy governor.

3. Margaret Ekpo (Nigeria’s First Female Politician)

Born in 1914 in Creek town, Cross Rivers state, Margaret Ekpo is Nigeria’s first female political activist. She was a leading member of a group of Nigerian women activists and also played major roles as a grassroots and nationalist politician in the Eastern Nigerian city of Aba. The Calabar airport was renamed after her in 2001.

4. Chinyere Kalu (Nigeria’s First Female Pilot)

Born in 1970, Chinyere is the first Nigerian female commercial pilot and the first woman to fly an aircraft in Nigeria.

She is a native of Ukwa East, Abia state.

5. Elizabeth Awoliyi (Nigeria’s First Female Doctor)

Born in 1910, Elizabeth is the first woman to practise as a physician in Nigeria. She was also the first West African woman to earn a license as a Royal Surgeon in Dublin.

6. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (Nigeria’s First Female To Drive A Car)

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a Nigerian educator, political campaigner and women’s rights activist. Born in 1900, Funmilayo who is the mother of afrobeat singer, Fela was the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School. She was the first female to drive a car in Nigeria and is the founder of the Nigerian Women’s Union.

7. Grace Alele Williams (Nigeria’s First Female Vice-Chancellor)

Born in 1932 in Warri, Delta State, she made history as the first female Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria. She is also the first Nigerian woman to receive a Ph. D in mathematics.

8.  Aloma Mariam Mukthar (Nigeria’s First Female Chief Justice)

Born in 1944, Mukthar hails from Adamawa state. She is the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria. She boasts of many other firsts in her career; she is the first female lawyer from Northern Nigeria, the first female judge of the High Court in Kano State judiciary, the first female justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

9. Aderonke Kale (Nigeria’s First Female Army Major-General)

Though trained as a doctor, Aderonke Kale made history when she was promoted to major-general in 1994 becoming the first Nigerian woman to achieve that rank. She was also the first female major-general in West Africa.

10. Mo Abudu (Nigeria’s First Female To Own A Pan-Africa TV Channel)

Born in 1964, Media mogul, Mo Abudu is the first Nigerian and African woman to own a Pan-Africa TV channel.

11. Florence Nwapa (Nigeria’s First Female Writer)

Born in 1931, Florence Nwapa, a Nigerian writer is fondly called the mother of modern African literature.

She is Nigeria’s first female writer and Africa’s first internationally published female novelist.

12. Adetoun Ogunsheye (Nigeria’s First Female Professor)

Adetoun Ogunsheye born in 1926 is the first female professor in Nigeria. She was the only female student at Yaba College of Technology in 1946. She was a professor of library and information science at the University of Ibadan.

13. Folake Solanke (Nigeria’s First Female Senior Advocate Of Nigeria)

Born in 1932, Folake Solanke is the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the first Nigerian female lawyer to wear the silk gown as Senior Counsel.

14.Sandra Aguebor (Nigeria’s First Female Mechanic)

She is widely known as the first woman to become a mechanic in Nigeria.

She is the founder of the Lady Mechanic Initiative and also trains survivors of human trafficking and underprivileged women to become mechanics.

15. Agbani Darego (Nigeria/Africa’s First Miss World Winner)

Born in 1982, Agbani Darego made history in Nigeria and Africa as a whole when she was crowned Miss World in 2001.

16. Sarah Jubril (Nigeria’s first female presidential Candidate)


Sarah Jibril, a Nigerian politician was born in Kwara state in 1945. Her quest for public office began in 1983 when she contested to be a senator in Kwara State.

She contested to be president under the Social Democratic Party in 1992 placing fourth in the primary election thereby making history as Nigeria’s first female presidential candidate.

17. Ebun Oyagbola (Nigeria’s First Female Minister)

Born in 1931, Oyagbola, a diplomat and politician is the first female cabinet minister in Nigeria upon her appointment in 1979.

18. Joanna Maduka (Nigeria’s First Female Engineer)

Born in 1941, Joanna Maduka is Nigeria’s first female engineer. She became the first female fellow of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) in 1974 and the first female President of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering in 2016.

19. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala, born in 1954 made history in March 2021 when she became the first woman and first Nigerian/African to be appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

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