Nigerian women have made remarkable impact in every aspect of the society. A number of them have made landmark contributions and achievements to extent they’ve become reference points in the nation’s history. The journalism industry in Nigeria has felt women’s impact but in the classroom and the field.
Adaora Lily Ulasi is one woman whose name is a major reference point in the history of journalism education and practice in Nigeria. She was the first woman in West Africa to earn a degree in Journalism.
Adaora was born in 1932 in Aba, Eastern Nigeria (now Abia State). She was a Nigerian journalist and novelist. Her stay in Aba was short-lived. She attended the local missionary school, but at the age of 15 was sent to the US to study.
After graduating from high school she then proceeded to study at Pepperdine University and at the University of Southern California, where she earned a BA in journalism in 1954. Adaora supplemented her income by working extra hard and extra hours. She was writing the occasional newspaper column, working as a nanny, and as a film extra appearing. For instance, she starred as an extra in the 1953 film White Witch Doctor that starred Susan Hayward and Robert Mitchum. Adaora married Deryk James and had three children Heather, Angela and Martin. After her divorce in 1972 she went to Nigeria as editor of Woman’s World magazine. Again she returned to England in 1976 to continue a quiet life as an author.
Adaora’s journalism career was very eventful. She traveled to Los Angeles around 1945 and lived with Charlotta Bass, publisher of the California Eagle. She was a reporter and columnist for the Eagle during her stay in Los Angeles.
In the 1960s she was women’s page editor of the Daily Times of Nigeria, at a time when the industry was thickly dominated by men, as women had little or no chance of climbing to editorial or decision-making positions. She also worked for the BBC and Voice of America.
A Fine Novelist
Adaora had a flare for writing novels, which she developed and came up with works that have been read across nations. Her first novel, Many Thing You No Understand (1970), “controversially (for the first time) used pidgin English to dramatize the interaction between colonial officers and local people in the pre-independence era, as did her subsequent works, Many Thing Begin For Change (1971), Who Is Jonah? (1978) and The Man from Sagamu (1978). By contrast, The Night Harry Died (1974) is set in southern USA.” Ulasi worked at the Times Complex in Lagos, Nigeria. As a novelist she wrote Detective Fiction in English, “adapting the genre of the crime thriller to an Igbo or Yoruba context”.
Adaora was among the female journalists in Nigeria’s press history that set the pace for other young women to move into an industry seen as a man’s career to work hard and excel. She remains a role model to many upcoming female novelists and journalists who would want to achieve what she accomplished in her life-time or even more.