She has been called ‘the Muslim Mother Teresa’ and now she is going to tell her story in a memoir from HarperCollins. Somali-born Edna Adan Ismail is the pioneer in nursing, health education and women’s rights who, at the age of 12, decided that she wanted to build a hospital that her doctor father would be proud to work in. “It took her some 50 years and all her savings to realise her ambition, but the state-of- the-art hospital she founded is a testament to her passion and dogged determination,” said her publisher.
Born in Hargeisa, Somalia in 1937, the daughter of a doctor in British Somaliland, Ismail trained as a nurse and midwife in London where she says she was “the first Somali girl” to study in Britain. She married Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal who was Head of Government in British Somaliland five days prior to Somalia’s independence and later became the Prime Minister of Somalia (1967–69) and President of Somaliland (1993–2002).
Having become her country’s First Lady, she then became its first female politician, rising to become minister of family welfare and social affairs and then foreign minister, in between military coups, imprisonment, forced indoctrination, midwifery, and front-line nursing.
Throughout her life she has campaigned against female genital mutilation, something she endured as an eight-year-old, breaking deep-rooted taboos by publicly condemning the widespread practice.
Now HarperCollins imprint HQ will publish her extraordinary story Simply a Midwife in spring 2019. It will be co-written by novelist Wendy Holden, and a major production company will be optioning film rights to the book.
HQ’s executive publisher, Lisa Milton, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Annabel Merullo at Peters Fraser Dunlop Literary Agency. Arabic rights have not yet been sold.
Milton said: “From the first moment I heard about Edna, I knew I wanted to publish her incredible story. Starting with her time as a midwife cycling around London in the 1950s to building the first women’s hospital in Somaliland, Edna never fails to inspire me. By sharing her incredible story, I know she will inspire many more. At 80 years young, Edna strives daily to achieve meaningful change for women and we created HQ to publish exactly this kind of story.”