In this timely addition to the Ohio Short Histories of Africa series, Pamela Scully takes us from the 1938 birth of Nobel Peace Prize winner and two-time Liberian president Ellen Johnson through the Ebola epidemic of 2014–15. Charting her childhood and adolescence, the book covers Sirleaf’s relationship with her indigenous grandmother and urban parents, her early marriage, her years studying in the United States, and her career in international development and finance, where she developed her skill as a technocrat. The later chapters cover her years in and out of formal Liberian politics, her support for women’s rights, and the Ebola outbreak.
Sirleaf’s story speaks to many of the key themes of the twenty-first century. Among these are the growing power of women in the arenas of international politics and human rights; the ravaging civil wars in which sexual violence is used as a weapon; and the challenges of transitional justice in building postconflict societies. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is an astute examination of the life of a pioneering feminist politician.