Ruth Perry

Ruth Perry
Chairman of the Council of State of Liberia
In office
3 September 1996 – 2 August 1997
DeputyGeorge Boley
G. V. Kromah
Oscar Quiah
Tamba Tailor
Charles Taylor[1][2]
Preceded byWilton Sankawulo
Succeeded byCharles Taylor (President)
Personal details
Born(1939-07-16)16 July 1939
Grand Cape Mount, Liberia
Died8 January 2017(2017-01-08) (aged 77)
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Political partyUnity Party
Alma materUniversity of Liberia

Ruth Sando Fahnbulleh Perry (July 16, 1939 – January 8, 2017) was a Liberian politician. She served as the interim Chairman of the Council of State of Liberia from 3 September 1996 until 2 August 1997, following the First Liberian Civil War.[3] After eleven international peace attempts between 1990 and 1995 to end the civil war in Liberia, the attempts appeared to succeed. The interim Council of State consisted of a civilian chairman, as well as members of warring factions: Charles Taylor, United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy-K leader Alhaji Kromah, Liberia Peace Council leader George Boley, and two other civilians.

Perry was known for being the first female president of Liberia and of contemporary Africa as a whole.[3] Liberia also has the distinction of electing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first elected female African leader in modern times.[4]

Early life

Perry was born July 16, 1939, in a rural area of Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia, the daughter of Marjon and AlHaji Semila Fahnbulleh. She was a Muslim of Vai ethnic ancestry. As a child, Perry participated in the Sande society, a traditional school and secret society for females, and attended regular classes. Her parents later enrolled her in a Roman Catholic school for girls in Monrovia run by missionary nuns. Perry graduated from the Teachers College of the University of Liberia. She worked as an elementary school teacher in Grand Cape Mount County.[5]

She married McDonald Perry, a judge and legislator and they had seven children. After her children were grown, Perry worked in the Monrovia office of Chase Manhattan Bank in 1971 and taught at a Sande school as an elder.[5]

Political career

When her husband was involved in politics, Ruth Perry engaged in the electoral campaign and tried to get women to vote for him. After her husband died, the party asked Ruth to run as senator for their home district. In 1985, Perry won a seat in the Liberian Senate as a Unity Party candidate.[6] In response to Samuel Doe's presidential election after calling elections, Unity Party office-holders and other official opposition politicians boycotted the Senate in protest, asserting that the Doe government was illegitimate. Perry did not join the boycott and became the lone member of the opposition in the Assembly.[5] "You can't solve the problems by staying away," she said.[4] She served until 1989. Afterwards, Perry launched a retail business and became active in civilian groups such as Women Initiative in Liberia, Women in Action for Goodwill and the Association of Social Services that sought an end to the growing Liberian Civil War.[7]

Interim Head of State: 1996–97

On August 17, 1996, after 17 years of conflict and 7 years of war, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) representatives negotiated a cease-fire between Liberia's warring factions and announced that Perry would replace Wilton Sankawulo as Chairman of the Council of State in an interim government. Reportedly all four warlords in the Liberian conflict had agreed to the peace agreement with Perry as interim leader,[5] after her return from a brief exile in Staten Island, New York.[8]

Later life and death

After stepping down, Perry moved between Liberia and the US. In 2004, she was an African President-in-Residence at the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University.[9] Perry died on January 8, 2017 at the age of 77.[10]


  1. ^ https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015061931294
  2. ^ https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015073049333
  3. ^ a b Jenda Journal, "African Women Premier Ministers"
  4. ^ a b Skard, Torild (2014) "Ruth Perry" in Women of Power – Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Bristol: Policy Press, ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0
  5. ^ a b c d Brennan, Carol (2006). Contemporary Black Biography. ISBN 9780787679224.
  6. ^ "New Interim Leader Is Chosen for Liberia". The New York Times. August 19, 1996. Retrieved January 10, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Jensen, Jane S. (2008) Women political leaders: breaking the highest glass ceiling, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 67–8. ISBN 9780312223380.
  8. ^ Matteo, Thomas (18 September 2011). "The World Leaders Who Walked Among Us". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 28 February 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ BU | APARC | About the Center Archived 2006-09-20 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Death of Matriach: Ruth Perry, Former Liberian Leader Dies At 77". FrontPage Africa. January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
Political offices
Preceded by
Wilton Sankawulo
Chairman of the Council of State of Liberia
Succeeded by
Charles Taylor
as President of Liberia

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