Madame Tinubu was a Nigerian woman who flourished as both a trader and a politician. Her people rewarded her services with the title iyalode, the highest honor a woman could receive, and she has become a legend.
Tinubu spent her life in towns on the southwestern Nigerian coast that traded with Europeans. Born in Abeokuta, she was married in about 1832 to a prince who later became king of the city-state of LAGOS. As a merchant in Lagos, Tinubu traded local products for a variety of European imports. As a politician, she became deeply involved in rivalries within the ruling class of Lagos. She grew wealthy and powerful but gained enemies who resented her success.
In the 1850s the British began intervening in the political situation in Lagos. They regarded Madame Tinubu as a “terror” who promoted the SLAVE TRADE and caused trouble. In 1856 she was forced to leave Lagos. Returning to Abeokuta, she rebuilt her business and again became active in politics. Today a plaza in Abeokuta is named after her, and her tomb is a tourist attraction. In Lagos a major street and square bear her name. (See also Nigeria, Trade, Women in Africa.)