Zauditu (also Zawditu, Zewditu, Waizero, or Judith) was born in 1916, the daughter of Emperor Menelik II, ruler of Ethiopia from 1889 to 1913. Her stepmother was Empress Taitu. In 1902 Zauditu married Ras Gugsa (Gugsa Wolie). Because Menelik had no sons and was reluctant to name a woman to succeed him, he had named his grandson, Lij Iyasu, as his heir, but the heir apparent refused to ready himself for the position. He refused all schooling after the age of fifteen. When Menelik died in 1913, despite Taitu’s objections in favor of her stepdaughter, Iyasu V became emperor. Three years later, he announced his conversion to Islam (1916). As he had not yet been officially crowned, the Ethiopian Church and the local chiefs removed him and, with Taitu as her champion, named Menelik’s daughter Zauditu as empress, with Ras Tafari Makonnen (later to be known as Haile Selassie) as her regent and heir. Her appointment was contingent upon her divorcing her husband.
Gradually, Zauditu became concerned about Ras Tafari’s usurping more and more power. Her reign was marked by turmoil between the conservative pro-church group, led by war minister Hapta Giorgis, and the liberal, pro-Western group, led by Ras Tafari. In 1923 Ethiopia joined the League of Nations, which later authorized an Ethiopian protest against Britain’s plan for division. In 1924 slavery was abolished in Ethiopia. Eventually the country regained access to the sea that had been lost along both the Red Sea coast and the Gulf of Aden. After the death of his old rival Giorgis in 1928, Ras Tafari, not daring to usurp the throne from the empress, nevertheless staged a palace coup and had Zauditu name him “king.”Two years later, Zaudita’s estranged husband, Ras Gugsa, who had been made governor-general of the northern provinces, organized a revolt. Ras Gugsa was killed and the revolt was squelched by Ras Tafari’s forces with great effort.
On the day that she heard the news of Ras Gugsa’s death, Empress Zauditu died (1930), and Ras Tafari was immediately crowned emperor with the title of Haile Selassi I. Twenty-five years later he enacted a law barring females from becoming monarchs in Ethiopia.
References Langer, William L. World History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. pp. 872, 1078–1079. Lipschutz, Mark R., and R. Kent Rasmussen. Dictionary of African Historical Biography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. p. 255.
Empress Zauditu,Titular Ruler of Et