Wangari was educated in the United State at Mount St. Scholastica and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi Kenya.
Prof. Maathai was married to Mwangi Mathai. They were blessed with three children, two daughters, and a son; Wanjira Mathai, Muta Mathai and Waweru Mathai.
Wangari and her husband, Mwangi, later separated in 1977. However, after a two-year separation, the husband filed for a divorce in 1979.
Mwangi was said to have believed that Wangari was “too strong-minded for a woman” and that he was “unable to control her”.
Wangari’s husband also accused her of infidelity as he claimed he was cheating on him with another Member of Parliament, which in turn, was thought to cause his high blood pressure.
After a much-publicized messy divorce, Mwangi, through his lawyer, asked Wangari to drop the surname Mathai as they were no longer married.
Being the smart woman she was, Wangari had something up her sleeve, instead of changing her name, she added an extra ‘a’ in the name Mathai after the letter’ M’ making her surname, Maathai.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner narrated her pain when her husband walked out of their matrimonial home during an interview with the Daily Nation in 2006.
Wangari revealed in the same interview that, she came home one day only to be told by the househelp that Mwangi had packed his belongings and left.
“I was stunned,” she recalls. “This was real: Mwangi had made a decision to leave me.”
Prof Maathai died of complications from Ovarian Cancer, on Sunday, 25 September 2011.