Iyalode is a chieftancy title commonly bestowed on women in Yorubaland. Traditionally, the Iyalode signifies the "queens of ladies" and is given to the most prominent and distinguished lady in or from the town. Like many other notable chieftancy titles given by the Oba, the Iyalode has assisting lieutenants such as the Otun Iyalode, Osi, and Ekerin. In many traditional Yoruba cities and towns some Iyalodes used to command the respect of a group of warriors and she is also the major representative of women in the traditional council where the voice of women are heard.
In ancient Oyo, the Iyalode was the most senior female in the hierarchy of chiefs, however, in Ondo, it is the Lobun and in Ilesa, the Arise. In Oyo and Ife during the eighteenth century, women in the palace came to play a more powerful role in their polities. Following the collapse of the Oyo empire and subsequent civil wars, a new a breed of women leaders who were both astute and enterprising in Abeokuta and Ibadan became Iyalodes re-defining their roles and competing with male chiefs in goods and slaves.
Iyalode in Ibadan history
Since Ibadan's early times, a few enterprising and exceptional women have always had a role to play and an interest in Ibadan affairs. One of the Lagelu's daughters, Oluyade was a warrior who joined forces with other Ibadan warriors in avenging an attack on Ibadan. Another woman, Iyalaje Onyonwu played an influential role in the Ibadan market system and produced two future Iyalodes. The first of Ibadan Iyalodes was Subuola and the second is the more famous Efunsetan Aniwura.
In the post colonial period, the Iyalode in Ibadan's chieftancy system is still an important feature. Various accomplished traders and politicians have held the title including Adebisi Abeo, Wuraola Esan, Hunmoani Alade and Wuraola Akintola.
- Samuel Johnson. The History of the Yorubas. p 77