Appointed queen mother of Ejisu of the Ashanti Empire—now part of modern day Ghana—by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, the Ejisuhene “ruler of Ejisu”. In 1900 she led the Ashanti rebellion known as the War of the Golden Stool against British colonialism.
During her brother’s reign, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Asante Confederacy go through a series of events that threatened its future. When her brother died in 1894, Yaa Asantewaa used her right as Queen Mother to nominate her grandson as Ejisuhene.
When the British exiled him in the Seychelles in 1896, along with the King of Asante Prempeh I and other members of the Asante government, Nana Yaa Asantewaa became regent of the Ejisu-Juaben District.
After the deportation of Prempeh I, the savage British governor-general of the Gold Coast, Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool, the symbol of the Asante nation.
This request led to a secret meeting of the remaining members of the Asante government at Kumasi, to discuss how to secure the return of their king. Yaa Asantewaa, who was present at this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these now-famous words:
"Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot.
No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.
Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be!
I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."
-- Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewa
The Ashanti-British "War of the Golden Stool" was led by Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa with an army of 5,000. While Yaa Asantewaa was captured by the British and deported, her bravery stirred a kingdom-wide movement for the return of Prempeh I and independence.