Grace Ogot was a widely read author of short stories, written in both English as well as in Dholuo, her mother tongue. She was actually a linguist fl uent in seven languages. She started writing just around the and the negatives of that transition phase when Kenyans were moving from the traditional to the modern, from colonialism to uhuru.
It was a time when the concept of ‘feminism’ was not even on the horizon in Kenya, yet Grace Ogot was a trail blazer. In 1949 she joined the Nursing School at the Mengo Medical School in Kampala and participated in debates at Makerere College; the incubator of so many of our region’s great personalities. She worked for a while at the Maseno Hospital during which time she did social and community work and even drove a Land Rover. In 1955 she proceeded to England for further studies.
Grace returned to Kenya and in 1959 married Africa’s renowned historian, Bethwell Ogot, whom she had got to know earlier in Makerere and then the UK. She continued to write but also took up business, establishing the Anyange Press in Kisumu. In 1976 she helped to found the Writers’ Association of Kenya. In 1983 she was nominated to Parliament in Moi’s Government, and in 1985 courageously plunged into the ruthless maledominated world of electoral politics. She was elected to represent the Gem constituency which had lost three MPs in suspicious circumstances. Soon after, she was appointed the Assistant Minister for Culture and Social Services becoming the only woman to hold a cabinet post at that time.
Throughout her life Grace Ogot remained a devout Christian and, in spite of her amazing achievements, a family woman who upheld the traditions of her patriarchal culture. She passed away in Nairobi leaving behind her husband, Bethwell, and their four children, David, Milton, Madara and Grace. The family is now working to set up the Hon. Grace Emily Akinyi Ogot Library which will comprise of units placed in the informal settlements. The purpose is to help promote a reading culture; Nairobi and Yala will be the pilot projects of a national plan. A short story Award will also be established in her name