Ighodaro, Irene (1916–1995)

views updated

Ighodaro, Irene (1916–1995)

Nigerian physician and social reformer. Born Irene Elizabeth Beatrice Wellesley-Cole in Sierra Leone, Africa, on May 16, 1916; died on November 29, 1995; daughter and one of seven children of Robert Wellesley-Cole (an engineer); attended the Government Model School; graduated from the Annie Walsh Memorial School, Freetown; M.B.B.S. from University of Durham, England; married Samuel Ighodaro (a judge of the High Court of Midwestern Nigeria); children: five; one died in infancy.

Irene Ighodaro, one of Nigeria's foremost physicians, was born in 1916 in Sierra Leone, a small country on the upper west coast of Africa. The daughter of an engineer, she was raised in relative privilege and encouraged by her father to pursue a medical education. (Irene had originally been interested in the study of languages, but after nursing her mother through a terminal illness, she decided to become a physician.) One of her brothers, also a doctor, financed her education at Durham University in England. After graduating, she married Samuel Ighodaro and moved to Nigeria, where her husband rose to become a justice in the High Court.

Ighodaro pursued her career while raising and educating a family of five, an accomplishment that would have been impossible, she claimed, without the help of her husband. He was "very broadminded" and believed "in the education of persons (male and female) and the continuous development of the personality." As a result, Irene had "great freedom of movement and action—with his help." Their goals were "the same."

In addition to her private practice, Ighodaro served as chair of the board of management of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Benin City, Nigeria, and was a consultant in maternal and child health to the World Health Organization. The author of the book Baby's First Year, as well as many articles, she also served as a trustee of the Nigeria Medical Association and as a member of a number of medical advisory committees in western Nigeria. In 1971, she received a professional award establishing her as a Foundation Fellow, with authority to serve as a consultant and examiner in her field. Outside of medicine, Ighodaro was active in both the national and international YWCA, serving also as a member of the YWCA World Executive Committee. In 1958, she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE).


Crane, Louise. Ms. Africa: Profiles of Modern African Women. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1973.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts