Adelaide Casely-Hayford

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Adelaide Casely-Hayford

Adelaide Casely-Hayford, 1903.jpg
Casely-Hayford in 1903
Adelaide Smith

(1868-06-27)June 27, 1868
DiedJanuary 16, 1960(1960-01-16) (aged 91)
NationalityBritish subject
  • Activist
  • educator
  • writer
Spouse(s)J. E. Casely Hayford
ChildrenGladys Casely-Hayford
Parent(s)William Smith Jr
Anne Spilsbury

Adelaide Casely-Hayford, MBE (née Smith; 27 June 1868 – 16 January 1960), was a Sierra Leone Creole advocate, an activist for cultural nationalism, educator, short story writer, and feminist. She established a school for girls in 1923 to instill cultural and racial pride during the colonial years under British rule. Promoting the preservation of Sierra Leone national identity and cultural heritage, in 1925 she wore a traditional African costume to attend a reception in honour of the Prince of Wales, where she created a sensation.

Early life and education[edit]

Adelaide Smith was born on 27 June 1868 in Freetown, British Sierra Leone, to a mixed-race father (William Smith Jr, of English and royal Fanti parentage) from the Gold Coast and a Creole mother, Anne Spilsbury, of English, Jamaican Maroon, and Sierra Leone Liberated African ancestry.[1] Adelaide was the second youngest of her parents' seven children.[1] She and her sisters grew up mostly in England, where her father had retired in 1872 with his family on a pension of 666 pounds sterling. She attended Jersey Ladies' College (now Jersey College for Girls).

At the age of 17, Smith went to Stuttgart, Germany, to study music at the Stuttgart Conservatory. She returned to England where, together with a sister, she opened a boarding home for African bachelors who were living in the country as students or workers.[2]

Marriage and family[edit]

While in England, Adelaide Smith married J. E. Casely Hayford (also known as Ekra-Agiman). Their marriage may have given her a deeper insight into African culture and influenced her transformation into a cultural nationalist.

Some of the contemporary Casely-Hayfords claim descent from them. Their daughter Gladys Casely-Hayford became a well-known Creole poet.[3]

Return to Freetown[edit]

After 25 years abroad, Adelaide Casely-Hayford and her sisters returned to Sierra Leone. Inspired by the ideas of racial pride and co-operation advanced by Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), she joined the Ladies Division of the Freetown Branch. She rose to be its president. In June 1920, she resigned from the association because of a conflict of interest between it and her proposed Girls' Vocational School. She toured the United States, giving public lectures to correct American notions about Africa.

Back in Freetown, Casely-Hayford embarked on establishing a vocational institution to help girls learn their cultural background and instill national pride. In October 1923, the Girls' Vocational School opened in the Smith family home with 14 pupils. As principal, Casely-Hayford would have preferred the pupils to wear native dress to school, but their parents rejected this idea.

She spent her later years writing her memoirs and short stories. Her short story "Mista Courifer" was featured in Langston Hughes' African Treasury: Articles, Essays, Stories, Poems (1960), a collection of short works by African writers, published in the United States. She died in Freetown in January 1960, aged 91.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Casely-Hayford opposed the injustices of the colonial system and advocated cultural nationalism, earning the respect of British authorities.


  1. ^ a b Rogers, Brittany Rose, "Hayford, Adelaide Smith Casely (1868-1960)",
  2. ^ "Adelaide Casely Hayford (1868-1960), Cultural Nationalist and Educationist", The Sierra Leone Web.
  3. ^ "Gladys May Casely-Hayford ('Acquah Laluah')", in Margaret Busby (ed.), Daughters of Africa, London: Jonathan Cape, 1992, biographical note, pp. 217-18.
  • Cromwell, Adelaide M. (1992). An African Victorian Feminist; the Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960. Howard University Press. ISBN 9780882581576.

External links[edit]