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Posts Tagged ‘National Women’s Day

The South African Public Holiday known as National Women’s Day, held on the 9th of August, commemorates the peaceful march in 1956 to the Union Building in Pretoria, to protest the legalised carrying of pass books. This March was led by 4 tenacious women.

Lilian Ngoyi was born on 25 September 1911 and died on 13 March 1980. The widowed mother of two initially earned her wages as a Seamstress. She was a passionate South African Anti-Apartheid Activist. Her political career in the ANC was firmly established after she led a peaceful march to the Union Building in Pretoria on 9 August 1956, alongside 3 of her comrades (mentioned below) and 20,000 other strong-willed women. The kickoff point for the march, at the time called Strijdom Plein, was since renamed to the Lilian Ngoyi Square. She and her fellow marchers protested the carrying of passbooks, and the phrase “if you strike a woman, you strike a rock” was coined.

Helen Beatrice Joseph (8 April 1905 – 25 December 1992), an Anti-Apartheid Activist, was working as a social worker in a Coloured community centre in Cape Town when the desperate plight of women propelled her into action. Along with thousands of women from across the nation, she protested the carrying of passbooks. She remained a passionate activist throughout her long life, and often cared for the children of her exiled or imprisoned comrades, among others, Nelson and Winni Mandela’s daughters, Zinzi and Zenani. She died at the age of 87 years; 7 years after the final banning order on her was lifted.

Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu (21 October 1918 – 2 June 2011) was widow to Walter Sisulu, former Secretary-General and Deputy President of the ANC. She was known as Ma(ma) Sisulu to the nation throughout her lifetime, and died in 2011 in her Linden home. As a nurse/midwife in Johannesburg, Albertina spent many hours walking to her various patients in townships and only became involved in politics, initially in a supporting role, when she married Walter Sisulu. Nelson Mandela was the lawyer who secured her acquittal on pass charges. The Albertina Sisulu Foundation’s focus is on the improvement of the lives of small children and old people.

Sophia Williams-De Bruyn. Born in 1938, Sophia is a former South African Anti-Apartheid Activist. She is the last living leader of the march. She was the founding member of the South African Congress of Trade Union (SACTU), which later gave rise to COSATU. She is a human resources manager and a commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality. She is a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC Women’s League and is a member of the Saartjie Baartman Reference Group.

All information and images courtesy of wikipedia  (en.wikipedia.org) and the SA History Online organisation (www.sahistory.org.za).

Text by Karen Nel, LGR Documentation