How Wangari Maathai Outsmarted Her Husband After Divorce

  • Professor Wangari Muta Maathai was a renowned Kenyan social, environmental and political activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    She was married to Mwangi Mathai with whom they had three children, two daughters and a son; Wanjira Mathai, Muta Mathai and Waweru Mathai.

    Wangari and her husband, Mwangi, separated in 1977 and after a two-year separation, he filed for a divorce in 1979.

    Mwangi was said to have believed that Wangari was "too strong-minded for a woman" and that he was "unable to control her".

    He also accused her wife of infidelity as he claimed he was cheating on him with another Member of Parliament, which in turn, was thought to cause his high blood pressure.

    After a much-publicised messy divorce, Mwangi, through his lawyer, asked Wangari to drop the surname Mathai as they were no longer married.

    Being the smart woman she was, Wangari had something up her sleeve, instead of changing her name, she added an extra ‘a’ in the name Mathai after the letter ‘M’ making her surname, Maathai.

    In an interview with the Daily Nation in 2006, she narrated of her pain when her husband walked out of their matrimonial home.

    She revealed that she came home one day only to be told by the househelp that Mwangi had packed his belongings and left.

    "I was stunned," she recalls. "This was real: Mwangi had made a decision to leave me."

    On Sunday, 25 September 2011, Maathai died of complications from Ovarian Cancer.