Adelaide Casely Hayford dedicated her life to educating young girls in Sierra Leone. She believed that education would prepare young girls for their appropriate roles as wives, mothers, and would also help promote pride in racial identity.
Hayford was born on June 2, 1868, in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Shewas the second youngest of seven children to parents William Smith Jr. and Anne Spilsbury. Her family was part of the Freetown Creole elite and were considered well-educated. At the age of four, Hayford’s family moved to England where she was raised and educated. Her mother died soon after they arrived in England, and she was raised by her father. She went on to excel in her studies and at the age of 17 she was sent to Germany to study music.
Hayford received the best education during that time. She learned the skills and accomplishments deemed suitable for young women of her class: basic educational skills, homecraft, a good understanding of literature, the art of conversation, and appropriate etiquette. Her musical training in Germany rounded off her training, from which she emerged as a versatile pianist and vocalist
In 1888, she returned to England where she began to think about pursuing a career in teaching. By 1892, she had moved to Freetown to pursue a teaching career. Casey married West African author Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford after a brief courtship. Their only daughter, Gladys, was born in 1904 with a hip joint deformity. Hayford sought medical treatment for her daughter in England and remained for three years. However, her marriage ended in divorce in 1909.
Hayford returned to Sierra Leone and began devoting her life to teaching the young girls of Sierra Leone. She founded the Girls Vocational School in Freetown and worked as president of the Young Women’s Christian Association. She promoted her educational principles across West Africa and never abandoned her goal of preparing young women for middle-class home life.