She began living in two different worlds in 2008. While working in the United States as a secretary typing circulars, booking appointments and answering phone calls, Peggielene Bartels was made the first female King of Otuam, a small fishing coastal community in the West African nation of Ghana.
The mantle of authority, according to CNN, fell on her when her uncle passed away. Her acceptance meant she had to navigate through the two roles by attending to her administrative duties at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington, D.C. every day and dedicating one month to visit Otuam to adjudicate matters relating to the people and community.
In 2013, she told CNN that her day starts with making phone calls to the elders and regent of Otuam in the morning to learn what’s happening. She also assigns tasks that need to be carried out. For more than 30 years, Bartels worked as a secretary before she was made the king of Otuam.
She said she was ushered into the kingship role after she had a call in 2008 from her cousin from Otuam. He called to congratulate her on being the new king of the area. She initially thought it was a prank that was being pulled by her cousin, but, what she assumed to be a fairytale was the truth.
When Bartels was over the shock, she accepted the authority given to her to supervise a community of approximately 7,000 people. She never dreamed of ascending the throne of Otuam. She had been living in the U.S. since her early 20s. She considered her new role as a calling to help improve the well-being of the people in her motherland.
Bartels was born in 1953 in Takoradi in Ghana. She had her education in England before relocating to the U.S. where she became an American citizen in 1997. Recently, she indicated that while in America, she does everything from cooking to doing her laundry but when she is in Ghana, she is held in high esteem, protected, pampered and does nothing by herself.
What being a female king in Otuam means is that she is occupying the highest traditional title in the area. It is the first time a female is assuming this role. Ordinarily, women are made queens where they supervise children’s affairs and report to the king to be assigned a task. The same however is not the case for Bartels.
Bartels has authored a book with Eleanor Herman documenting her overnight experience from being an old secretary to becoming king. Hollywood star Will Smith bought the rights to the book. A movie was expected to be shot with Queen Latifah playing the role of King Peggielene.
Being a king in a small fishing village comes with a lot of responsibilities though. One of them is addressing the myriad of needs of the community and dealing with the personal issues affecting people including paying school fees and hospital bills.
After she ascended the throne, Bartels was able to provide the first ambulance for her community and donate computers to schools.