Helena Ritz Fathia Nkrumah (/nərˈkrʊˈmɑːr/ nər-KRUU-MAR) (22 February 1932 – 31 May 2007),[1][2] born Fathia Halim Rizk (Arabic: فتحية حليم رزق), was an Egyptian, and the First Lady of the newly independent Ghana as the wife of Kwame Nkrumah, its first president.

Fathia Nkrumah
Fathia Nkrumah with son Gamal
1st First Lady of Ghana
In role
1957/1958 – 24 February 1966
Succeeded byMildred Christina Akosiwor Fugar
Personal details
Fathia Halim Rizk

(1932-02-22)22 February 1932
Zeitoun, Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt
Died31 May 2007(2007-05-31) (aged 75)
Badrawy Hospital, Cairo, Egypt
Political partyConvention People's Party
(m. 1957; died 1972)
ChildrenGamal (born 1958)
Samia (born 1960)
Francis (born 1962)
Sekou (born 1964)
ProfessionTeacher, Bank teller, First Lady
ReligionCoptic Christian

Fathia Nkrumah was born to a Coptic Christian family and brought up in Zeitoun, a district of Cairo. She was the first child of a civil servant who died early; Fathia was raised by her mother single-handedly after her husband's death.[3]

Early life and career


She was born Fathia Halim Rizk in Zeitoun, Cairo, in 1932. Her father worked as a clerk in an Egyptian telephone company and died early, leaving her mother widowed and having to raise Fathia single-handed. She was the eldest of five children in the family.[4]

After completing her secondary education, where she studied French,[5] she worked as a teacher at her school in Zeitoun, Notre Dame des Apôtres. As teaching did not appeal to her, she took a job in a bank.



Frederick, an American journalist, who published her book in 1967, said Nkrumah sent his friend, Alhaji Saleh Said Sinare, who was one of the first Ghanaian Muslims to study in Egypt, to find him a Christian wife from Egypt, and Fathia was one of the final five women chosen. At that stage, Kwame Nkrumah proposed to marry her. Her mother was reluctant to see another of her children marry a foreigner and quit the country, as Fathia's brother had left Egypt with his English wife.

Fathia explained that Nkrumah was an anti-colonial hero, like Nasser, yet her mother refused to speak to her or bless the marriage. Nkrumah married Fathia at Christianborg Castle, Accra on the evening of the 1957 New Year's Eve upon her arrival in Ghana.[6]

Leaving Ghana and later life


Fathia Nkrumah was the mother of three young children when her husband was overthrown in Ghana's first successful military coup d'état on 24 February 1966.[7] She had to take her children to Cairo, to be raised there while her husband went into exile in Guinea. Her children were Gamal (born in 1958), Sékou (born in 1964) and Samia Nkrumah (born in 1960).[8]

Her children have all gone on to have careers relating to politics. Her daughter, Samia Nkrumah, was the chairperson of the Convention People's Party (CPP), the Ghanaian political party that her father founded, from 2011 to 2015.[9]



Fathia died on 31 May 2007 at Badrawy Hospital in Cairo due to a stroke after a period of illness.[2]

Her memorial mass was held in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral Church in Cairo by Pope Shenouda III on 1 June 2007. Subsequently, Fathia Nkrumah's bodily remains were flown to Ghana for a funeral at the State House and, following her "lifelong request", was buried next to her husband at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.[10]

See also



  1. ^ Reynolds, R. Harry (16 February 2007). "Fathia Nkrumah Unwell". Modern Ghana. Retrieved 13 May 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Fathia Nkrumah is dead". Ghana Web. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2024.
  3. ^ "How a beautiful and naive young Egyptian woman became Kwame Nkrumah's wife". GhanaWeb. 2022-04-30. Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  4. ^ "Nkrumah, Fathia (c. 1931—)". Encyclopedia. 2002.
  5. ^ "The Insufficiency of Pan-Africanism as We Know It". The Nation. 7 July 2016. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Fathia : The Rock Of The Nkrumah Family". Modern Ghana. 18 September 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2024.
  7. ^ "Fathia Nkrumah is dead - MyJoyOnline". www.myjoyonline.com. 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2024-05-13.
  8. ^ "Nkrumah, Fathia (c. 1931—) | Encyclopedia.com". Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  9. ^ "Samia wins heart of CPP guru". Modern Ghana. Retrieved 2021-09-17.
  10. ^ "copticafrica.org :: Photo Gallery ::: Bishop Antonious Markos, Bishop of African Affairs of the Coptic Orthodox Church (COC) from Egypt being assisted by his members to officiate at the Burial Service. ::: Ghana Photos Online". Archived from the original on 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-06-13.