Princess Ademola - Source : Imperial War Museum
Today we celebrate the story of Princess Adenrele Ademola , a Nigerian royal who worked as a nurse in Britain for 30 years and who inspired many in West Africa to follow her steps.
Princess Adenrele Ademola was born in Nigeria in 1916. Her father was King Alake of Abeokuta, a prominent king in the southern region of Nigeria.
Princess Ademola first arrived in Britain in 1935 aged 22. She originally stayed at the Africa Hostel in Camden Town, which was set up by the West African Students’ Union (WASU). At the time, the WASU was a key social and political organisation for people of West Africa living in Britain. Princess Ademola then moved to Somerset in 1936 to start her nursing studies and later on her career as a nurse.
At the beginning of her career, Princess Ademola had to balance both her royal and nursing duties, attending royal social events such as King George’s coronation and garden parties at Buckingham Palace. In addition, she also hosted social events herself such as leading royal visits to the Mayor and Mayoress of London.
According to historical records of the work she did, she started as a midwife and from 1939, she’s included in the nursing staff at St Saviour’s ward at Guy’s hospital in London. After six years of training , she passed her nursing exams and officially became a registered nurse at Guy’s hospital in 1941.From then on, she worked at several hospitals including Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital in London and New End Hospital in Hampstead.
In the mid 1940’s, a film titled ‘Nurse Ademola’ showcasing her life and experience as a nurse was made by the Colonial Film Unit. The role of the Colonial Film Unit was mainly to produce propaganda films to promote the colonial efforts of the British empire and the‘ Nurse Ademola’ movie was part of this propaganda effort. Sadly the film has now been lost so there are no longer records of her life on camera, but it is said to have inspired a lot of African viewers when it was screened in West Africa. The fact that a movie was made about her also signifies the importance or Princess Ademola as a nursing role model not only for Africans but also for the British empire.
The last records of Princess Ademola’s activity as a nurse in Britain are from 1949, when she listed herself as a nurse in South Kensington, London.
The stories of African nurses such as Princess Ademola are important chapters of British nursing story and testimonies of the positive contribution Black nurses have made to British society. However, erasure of footages such as the ‘Nurse Ademola’ movie also show that the stories of Black nurses have not been given as much importance as their White counterparts and as a result face being forgotten and unknown. By sharing their stories, we are not only honouring their legacy but also ensuring they are given the recognition they deserve.