Empress Woizero Menen Asfaw, born on April 3, 1891 and died on February 15, 1962 was widely regarded as the mother of the Ethiopian nation.
Born in Ambassel, Ethiopia by Asfaw Jantirar and Woizero Sehin Mikael and was married to the last reigning Emperor of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Sellassie I in July 1911 at a young age of 20.
She was baptized with the name Walatta Giyorgis into the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo.
According to reports, Empress Menen Asfaw was first married to Dejazmach Ali of Cherecha, a nobleman from Wollo and had a daughter, Woizero Belaynesh Ali and a son, Jantirar Asfaw Ali but the marriage was short-lived as it ended in divorce.
Another marriage was arranged for Empress Woizero to Dejazmach Amede Ali Aba-Deyas still from Wollo. She equally had two children with him – a girl and boy; Woizero Desta Amede and Jantirar Gebregziabiher Amede before the death of her husband.
After the death of Dajazmach, Negus Mikael who was the grandfather to Empress Menen got her married to Ras Leulseged Atnaf Seged, a noble from Shewan but Woizero Menen secured a divorce to marry Dejazmach Makonnen who later became the Emperor, Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Empress Woizero Menen Asfaw became the voice of the Ethiopian women. She founded the Empress Menen Girl’s School in Addis Ababa. She made sure that all girls from her empire were enrolled in the school and she visited the institution on every graduation ceremony to encourage and motivate them in becoming what the aspires, in future. She was the patroness of many organizations like the Red Cross Society, and the Ethiopian Women’s Charitable Organizations.
Being a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo, she contributed immensely to the growth of the church. She both built and renovated most churches in Ethiopia.
Empress Woizero Menen Asfaw generously built a foundation for the less privileged, the poor, the ill and the disabled.
In 1934, Emperor Haile Selassie I and his family was exiled during the Italian occupation in Ethiopia till 1941 which they returned back to Ethiopia, prior to her vow to dedicate her crown Virgin Mary at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, if Ethiopia were to be liberated from the Italian Occupation, her crown was sent to the church but a replica of the crown was crafted for future use.
During an Imperial Guard coup attempt on Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1960, Empress Woizero was kept on house arrest along with few of her family as the crowned prince was spotted at the Imperial Guard post exchanging greetings which raised suspicion about the failed coup.
After her death in 1962, Empress Woizero Menen Asfaw was buried in the crypt of the Holy Trinity, in Addis Ababa.
The husband, Emperor Haile Selassie later built two Sarcophagi close to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and instructed the Empress to be buried alongside which was honored during his ceremonial burial in 2000.