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Get to Know the World’s First Elected Black Female President

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Editor’s Note: This Women’s History Month, Bumble is celebrating women from all walks of life, across centuries and generations, who didn’t believe in sticking to the rules. These founding members of our First Movers Club didn’t let gender norms — or anything else! — hold them back. They left their mark by making the first move, and the world is a better place thanks to their bravery and boldness.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s own “Iron Lady,” was sworn in as Liberia’s first female head of state (not to mention the world’s first elected black female president) in January 2006 — an unprecedented moment in Africa’s 54 nations.

While leading her nation through financial crises, government corruption, and the crippling Ebola virus outbreak of 2014, Sirleaf continuously fought for women’s equality in the the country that she loved. 

Whether she was breaking the political glass ceiling or working to better the lives of everyday Liberian women, Sirleaf’s administration inspired future leaders not just in Africa, but throughout the world. Keep scrolling to read more about her remarkable run. 

  • Some say like father, like daughter. As the first indigenous Liberian to sit in the national legislature, Sirleaf’s father’s career helped to inspire her passion for public service .
  • In 1971, after earning a master’s degree from Harvard University, Sirleaf returned to Liberia to serve as the assistant minister of finance.
  • Sirleaf endured multiple prison terms and was, at times, forced into exile because of her unwavering devotion to freedom in her home country and speaking out against the 
  • During Sirleaf’s first term as president, she erased all of Liberia’s debt (estimated at $5 billion) and secured millions of dollars in foreign investment for the country. She did all of that in addition to fighting to improve women’s quality of life.
  • In 2011, Sirleaf received the Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent fight for women’s safety and equality through peace-building work in emerging democracies.

See more of our fabulous First Movers, here!