Empress Taitu Bitul of Ethiopia (1851 – February 11, 1918)
Empress Taitu was the loyal wife of Emperor Menelik II. She was considered a brilliant military strategist, a commander and an advisor to her husband. Taitu’s relationship with Emperor Menelik was one of mutual respect, independence, trust and reciprocity. Taitu played a key role in halting European’s plot to colonize Ethiopia when she advised her husband to reject the Treaty of Wuchale (May 2, 1889) between Italy and Ethiopia.
The Italian translation of article 17 of the treaty would have made Ethiopia Italy’s protectorate. In contrast, the Amharic version recognized the sovereignty of Ethiopia and its relationship with Italy as just a diplomatic partnership.
Taitu’s advice lead to Menelik tearing up the Wuchale Treaty, which then lead to Italy waging war in what became know as the First Italo–Ethiopian War or the 1896 Battle of Adwa. Taitu reportedly marched north with the Emperor and the Imperial Army, commanding a force of cannoneers.
According to the research of Profesor Ayele Bekerie, Taitu’s strategy helped Ethiopia soundly defeat Italy during the Battle of Mekelle.
“At the Battle of Mekelle, she advised Ras Mekonen to cut off the water supply to the Italians in order to disgorge them from their entrenched and heavily fortified positions at Endeyesus Hill on the eastern part of Mekelle City. Taitu was also the receiver and analyzer of intelligence information collected by spies, such as Basha Awalom Haregot and Gebre Igziabher. Historians characterize the intelligence data obtained by Awalom and Gebre Igzabher as crucial importance to the Ethiopian victory at the battle.”