Ama Ata Aidoo, the Ghanaian novelist and playwright whose works explored the lives of women in her home country, has died at 81, the BBC reports.

Aidoo was born in the Ghanaian village of Abeadzi Kyiakor, the daughter of a Fante chief. She was educated at Wesley Girls’ Senior High School in Cape Coast and at the University of Ghana in Legon.

In 1964, she published her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost. She made her prose fiction debut in 1970 with the short story collection No Sweetness Here. A critic for Kirkus wrote of the book, “Her touch is light but sure, and her audience, though small, will be well rewarded.”

Her other books include the novels Our Sister Killjoy and Changes, and the story collections The Girl Who Can and Diplomatic Pounds. She had a brief career in government service, working as Ghana’s Minister of Education for 18 months in the early 1980s.

Aidoo’s admirers paid tribute to her on social media. On Twitter, arts festival director Lọlá Shónẹ́yìn wrote, “Mama, Ama Ata Aidoo, has joined the ancestors. She was my literary mother. She embraced me, taught me and always had the right words. Mama was a towering literary figure and feminist.”

And podcaster Fungai Machirori posted a photo of Aidoo, tweeting, “I am shattered. Ama Ata Aidoo was a touring presence. Her book ‘Our Sister Killjoy’ changed so much for me. I had the great privilege to meet her. This is a photo I took of her one evening we went out dancing. This is how I will remember her. The absolute life of the party.”

Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.