A Woman to Know: Taytu Betul

You want other countries to see Ethiopia as your protege, but that will never be. — Taytu

(image via Wikimedia Commons)


Empress Taytu was famous for saying "no." According to legend, her indecisive husband, Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II, frequently made flippant promises with a simple "yes, tomorrow" — and then he would call his wife into negotiations, to cancel all agreements with a firm, powerful "no."

While her "nos" didn't win her many admirers, her staunchness brought prosperity to the country: Taytu was crucial to the fight against colonization, and Menelik later credited her with much of the military and economic strategy that kept European invaders at bay. She founded Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa, in 1886, and championed a period of cosmopolitan trade that brought the world to her home country.

And during the momentous Battle of Adwa in 1896, she and Menelik split military duties, with Taytu leading her own army up a mountain to protect her beloved capital city. From there, she vanquished Italian invaders and preserved Ethiopian sovereignty — independence that would remain unchallenged until her death in 1918.

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