Heroes Of Our Time — Ms Mabel Ellen Dove
Mabel Ellen Dove was a freedom fighter, political activist, first female member of the Legislative Assembly in the Gold Coast, journalist and prolific writer.
Ms Dove was born in Accra in 1905. Her parents were the famous lawyer Francis Dove of Freetown, Sierra Leone, who settled in Accra, and Madam Eva Buckman of Osu. Her father sent her and her sisters to school in Freetown. On completion of her elementary school, she went to the Annie Welsh Memorial Secondary School in Freetown. Like her other sisters, she was sent to England to do her post-secondary school course.
She did a secretarial course at Gregg Commercial College and qualified as a professional secretary at the age of 24. The graduates of that college and Pitman's College were very much in demand in England, the colonies, the Commonwealth and the USA. They manned the secretarial section of most departments, in the Home Civil Service, the colonial offices in the colonies and the Civil Service of the Commonwealth countries.
She was, therefore, expected to return to the Gold Coast and enter the civil service. But she went to Freetown, worked for some time for a commercial company, before returning to the Gold Coast and worked as a secretary with A.G. Leventis.
Her love for journalism took the better part of her and she started writing articles in the Times of West Africa. Her articles made her popular and showcased her literary talents, to the admiration of the paper's owner, Dr J.B. Danquah, and other scholars of the day.
Dr Danquah's admiration of her turned to love and the love turned into marriage. Ms Dove became Mrs Mabel Ellen Danquah. Unfortunately, in the course of time the marriage collapsed. The Times of West Africa also ceased to function. She then moved on to the African Morning Post.
Ms Dove confirmed her credentials as a firebrand and an anti-imperialist during the sedition trial of two of her colleagues on the African Morning Post, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Wallace Johnson, a founding member of the West African Youth League which was then at the forefront, calling for self-government now. The sedition case was over an article written by Wallace Johnson and published by Nnamdi Azikiwe in his newspaper, the African Morning Post, in 1936.
The article was, “Has an African a God?” That article sought to indict the European colonial masters for their iniquities in Africa under the guise of introducing Christianity into Africa, with the Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. After a protracted trial, Wallace Johnson and Nnamdi Azikiwe returned to their respective countries, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. By then, Ms Dove and the youth of the day had become more disenchanted with British rule.
When Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah took the centre stage of politics in the Gold Coast after he founded his Convention People's Party (CPP) in June 1949, Ms Dove became one of his early converts and journalists for his paper. She became a member of staff of The Accra Evening News. Like all the staff of The Accra Evening News, she used her journalistic prowess, will power and her newly-found bitter distaste for British rule in the country to pour venom on British imperialism and agitated for immediate self-government for the Gold Coast.
She supported the Positive Action of January 8, 1950 launched by Dr Nkrumah and the CPP. She whipped up the enthusiasm of the people in her articles in the Accra Evening News. She joined the propagandists in the media house and waged a persistent and unrelenting war on the British, demanding “Self-Government Now”!
She, however, escaped arrest, trial and imprisonment as happened to almost all her colleagues, including Dr Nkrumah. She, therefore, failed to win the coveted crown, “Prison Graduate”.
As a full-fledged member of the CPP, Ms Dove went into full gear to organise the women to join the party in their numbers and fight shoulder to shoulder with the men to win independence for the Gold Coast.
During the general election of 1954, Ms Dove's hard work in organising the women for the CPP and her journalistic work at the Accra Evening News during the 1950s were rewarded when she was put up as a CPP candidate for Ga Rural.
She won the election hands down. Her election as the first female member of the Legislative Assembly was a remarkable achievement and a landmark in the political history of the Gold Coast. Her entry into the National Assembly coincided with the exit of her former husband, Dr Danquah, who, unfortunately, lost his seat in rural Akyem Abuakwa.
In the National Assembly, she became the spokeswoman on women and children's affair, as well as the issues of independence for the Gold Coast. Her debating skills and intelligent contributions to the discussions on bills on the floor of the House won the hearts of her male counterparts. They all missed her when she failed to make it to the House again in the 1956 general election.
Her early exit from the National Assembly in the 1956 general election was a big dent on her political career.
Male chauvinism, which had been the subject matter of some of her short stories, brought to an end her membership of the National Assembly when her constituency selected a man as its CPP candidate instead of her.
She, however, continued to work for the independence of the country within the party but outside the National Assembly. She felt contented with her brilliant political career when the Gold Coast gained independence on March 6, 1957. She had achieved her aim. The name Ghana came from the fertile brain of her former husband, Dr Danquah. From then on, she turned her attention to her career as a freelance journalist till the end of time.
At 79, she was called to her Maker. Thus ended the life of the first woman member of the Legislative Assembly in the Gold Coast-a political writer for newspapers, a freedom fighter, a writer of short stories, a courageous woman who always put the fortunes of her country first, even at the risk of her life, and who was prepared to stand up against injustice, oppression and suppression of the masses, even though she was a bourgeoisie.
By A. B. Chinbuah