Iconic Women

Author, Poet, Playwright, and Academic. Ama Ata Aidoo

By Hillary Essien | Dec 1, 2021

Ama Ata Aidoo is a Ghanaian author, poet, playwright, and academic. She is the first published African woman dramatist, and some of her notable works include The Dilemma of a Ghost, Anowa, and Our Sister Killjoy: or Reflections from a Black-eyed Squint. Aidoo was the Minister of Education in Ghana under the Jerry Rawlings administration.

Early Life and Education

Ama Ata Aidoo was born in Saltpond, Ghana, and was raised in a Fante royal household – her father, Nana Yaw Fama, was the chief of Abeadazi. Her father believed in the importance of educating children in the village on the history and events of British neocolonialism. This led him to open the first school in the village and send Aidoo to the Wesley Girls’ Senior High School on cape coast.

After high school, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Ghana, Legon, and it was during her time at university, that she wrote her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost.


Aidoo’s first play was published by Longman in 1965, making her the first published African woman dramatist. Her second play, Anowa, was published in 1971 and produced in London in 1991. She has also written fictional pieces which focus on the tension between western and African world views. Many of her protagonists are women who defy the stereotypical woman roles of their time.

Her first novel, Our Sister Killjoy was published in 1977 and is one of her most popular works to date. Aidoo was appointed Minister of Education of Ghana in 1982. However, her political career was short-lived as she resigned after 18 months when she realized that she could not make education free and accessible to all Ghanaians.

Ama Ata Aidoo also has an extensive teaching career as she has lived and taught in many countries abroad. She held a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University, California, served as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, and as a professor in English at the University of Cape Coast.

Aidoo has taught several English courses at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and is currently a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University.

In 2000, she established the Mbaasem foundation to support and promote the work of African women writers.

Awards and Recognition

In 1992, Ama Ata Aidoo won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel Changes. Her collection of poems, Someone Talking To Sometime, won the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987.

The Aidoo-Synder book prize is named in honour of Aidoo and Margaret C. Synder. It is awarded by the Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association for an outstanding book published by a woman that prioritizes African Women’s experiences.

The Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at the African University College of Communications in Adabraka, Accra, was named in her honour.