Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – WOMAN of ACTION™

A Celebration of Women™

in honor of the Decade of Women announcement, was inspired to Celebrate the Life of this powerhouse of a woman, that we foresee as a major role in the Unity of Africa, Empowerment of Women; as well as, the Peace in our world, in general. Ellen is one of the women on this planet that has withstood adversity, working for the betterment of others, at all costs. Her intention, integrity and perseverence in her work alone, should speak volumes as to her character, and we are pleased to pay Tribute here today.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, divorced mother of four boys and grandmother to six children is Liberia’s first elected female president, as well as the first elected female leader on the continent.

Said about Ellen is: “As Africa’s first elected female leader she is bold and courageous, unfazed by the enormous challenges she faces…”

Help us Celebrate the Life of this amazing power of example to Courage Under Fire…


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks
at the 63rd annual United Nations General Assembly meeting UN headquarters in New York City.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, fondly called the “Iron Lady” by her supporters, has been leading, healing, and rebuilding Liberia as its president since 2005. From her service as a Liberian Cabinet Minister in the 1970s, senior United Nations administrator in the 1990s and now President, this Harvard educated woman, has never stopped working for democracy for her country. When she opposed the military rule of Samuel Doe, she was imprisoned before eventually fleeing. Her years in exile afforded her valuable international experience.

As Africa’s first elected female leader she is bold and courageous, unfazed by the enormous challenges she faces, and surprisingly optimistic about her chances for success. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by an U.S. president.

Ellen Johnson was born in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, 29 October 1938, Monrovia, Liberia. Amongst the descendents of original colonists of Liberia (ex-African slaves from America, who promptly on arrival set about enslaving the indigenous people using the social system of their old American masters as a basis for their new society). These descendents are known in Liberia as Americo-Liberians.

Liberia, which means “land of the free,” was founded by free African-Americans and freed slaves from the United States in 1820. An initial group of 86 immigrants, who came to be called Americo-Liberians, established a settlement in Christopolis (now Monrovia, named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820.
Thousands of freed American slaves and free African-Americans arrived during the following years, leading to the formation of more settlements and culminating in a declaration of independence of the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847. The drive to resettle freed slaves in Africa was promoted by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization of white clergymen, abolitionists, and slave owners founded in 1816 by Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister.

From 1948 to 55 Ellen Johnson studied accounts and economics at the College of West Africa in Monrovia. After marriage at the age of 17 to James Sirleaf, she travelled to America (in 1961) and continued her studies, achieving a degree from the University of Colorado. From 1969 to 71 she read economics at Harvard, gaining a masters degree in public administration. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf then returned to Liberia and began working in William Tolbert’s (True Whig Party) government.

A Start in Politics:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf served as Minister of Finance from 1972 to 73, but left after a disagreement over public spending. As the 70s progressed, life under Liberia’s one-party state became more polarised – to the benefit of the Americo-Liberian elite. On 12 April 1980 Master Sergeant Samuel Kayon Doe, a member of the indigenous Krahn ethnic group, seized power in a military coup and President William Tolbert was executed along with several members of his cabinet by firing squad.

Life under Samuel Doe:

With the People’s Redemption Council now in power, Samuel Doe began a purge of government. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf narrowly escaped – choosing exile in Kenya. From 1983 to 85 she served as Director of Citibank in Nairobi, but when Samuel Doe declared himself president of the Republic in 1984 and unbanned political parties, she decided to return.

During the 1985 elections Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf campaigned against Doe,

and was placed under house arrest.

An Economist’s Life in Exile:

Sentenced to ten years in prison, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf spent just a short time incarcerated, before being allowed to leave the country once again as an exile. During the 1980s she served as Vice President of both the African Regional Office of Citibank, in Nairobi, and of (HSCB) Equator Bank, in Washington. Back in Liberia civil unrest erupted once more. On 9 September 1990, Samuel Doe was killed by a splinter group from Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia.

A New Regime:

From 1992 to 97 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf worked as Assistant Administrator, and then Director, of the UN Development Program Regional Bureau for Africa (essentially an Assistant Secretary-General of the UN). Meanwhile in Liberia an interim government was put in power, lead by a succession of four un-elected officials (the last of whom, Ruth Sando Perry, was Africa’s first female leader). By 1996 the presence of West African peacekeepers created a lull in the civil war, and elections were held.

A First Attempt at the Presidency:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf returned to Liberia in 1997 to contest the election.

She came second to Charles Taylor (gaining 10% of the vote compared to his 75%) out of a field of 14 candidates.

The election was declared free and fair by international observers. (Johnson-Sirleaf campaigned against Taylor and was charged with treason.) By 1999 civil war had returned to Liberia, and Taylor was accused of interfering with his neighbours, fomenting unrest and rebellion.

This man, Charles Taylor, was a classic African despot, crazed by power and, as usual, constantly quoting ‘God’ to justify his ungodliness. No surprise then that tyrant Taylor was reported to have had extensive business dealings with American television ‘evangelist’ Pat Robertson, who seems to have an addiction to African dictators.

A New Hope from Liberia:

On 11 August 2003, after much persuasion, Charles Taylor handed power over to his deputy Moses Blah. The new interim government and rebel groups signed an historic peace accord and set about installing a new head of state. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was proposed as a possible candidate, but in the end the diverse groups selected Charles Gyude Bryant, a political neutral. Johnson-Sirleaf served as head of the Governance Reform Commission.

Liberia’s 2005 Election:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf played an active role in the transitional government as the country prepared for the 2005 elections, and eventually stood for president against her rival the ex-international footballer, George Manneh Weah. Despite the elections being called fair and orderly, Weah repudiated the result, which gave a majority to Johnson-Sirleaf, and the announcement of Liberia’s new president was postponed, pending an investigation. On 23 November 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was declared the winner of the Liberian election and confirmed as the country’s next president.

Her inauguration, attended by the likes of US First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, took place on Monday 16 January, 2006.

Domestic Policy

President Sirleaf addresses the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

From the beginning of her presidency, Sirleaf vowed to make reduction of the national debt, which stood at approximately $4.9 billion in 2006, a top priority for her administration. The United States became the first country to grant debt relief to Liberia, waiving the full $391 million owed to it by Liberia in early 2007. In September of that year, the G-8 headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel provided $324.5 million to paying off 60% of Liberia’s debt to the International Monetary Fund, crediting their decision with the macroeconomic policies pursued by the Sirleaf administration. In April 2009, the government successfully wrote off an additional $1.2 billion in foreign commercial debt in a deal that saw the government buy back the debt at a 97% discounted rate through financing provided by the International Development Association, Germany, Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom. The discounted rate was the largest ever for a developing country.

The country was deemed eligible to participate in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative in 2008. In June 2010, the country reached the completion point of the HIPC initiative, qualifying it for relief from its entire external debt.That same month, the World Bank and IMF agreed to fund $1.5 billion in writing off the Liberia’s multilateral debt.

LIBERIAN OBERSERVER: http://www.liberianobserver.com/node/8408

On 16 September, the Paris Club agreed to cancel $1.26 billion, with independent bilateral creditors canceling an additional $107 million, essentially writing off Liberia’s remaining external debt. Sirleaf vowed to prevent excess borrowing in the future by restricting annual borrowing to 3% of GDP and limiting expenditure of all borrowed funds to one-time infrastructure projects.

On 26 July 2007, President Sirleaf celebrated Liberia’s 160th Independence Day under the theme “Liberia at 160: Reclaiming the future.”

She took an unprecedented and symbolic move by asking 25 year old Liberian activist Kimmie Weeks to serve as National Orator for the celebrations. Kimmie became Liberia’s youngest National Orator in over a hundred years and delivered a powerful speech. He called for the government to prioritize education and health care. A few days later, President Sirleaf issued an Executive Order making education free and compulsory for all elementary school aged children.

In October 2010, Sirleaf signed into law,

a Freedom of Information Bill,

the first legislation of its kind in West Africa.

The Executive Mansion News


On Nov. 10, 2011, following the runoff vote, election officials announced that Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf had had been re-elected by an overwhelming margin.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf won 90.8 percent of the vote in the low-turnout election, easily defeating Winston Tubman, a former United Nations diplomat who said he was withdrawing from the race only days before the voting over what he claimed was fraud in the first round.

A Celebration of Women

salutes this Woman as a Leader with vision, and trusts she offers

Hope for all Women.

Brava Ellen!

Copyright 2022 @ A Celebration of Women™ The World Hub for Women Leaders That Care