8 April: Remembering Helen Joseph on Birthday

OV Digital Desk
4 Min Read
Helen Joseph

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Helen Joseph 8 April 1905 – 25 December 1992) was a South African anti-apartheid activist. A leading figure of white dissent of the unjust practice of apartheid, Joseph is widely considered one of South Africa’s most influential freedom fighters and women’s rights advocates.

Life and Career

Joseph was born on 8 April 1905, in Sussex, England, and moved to South Africa in 1927 to work as a teacher. In 1931, she joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and became actively involved in the struggle against racial discrimination and oppression.

In 1948, the National Party came to power and implemented the apartheid policy, which legalized racial segregation and discrimination against non-white South Africans. Joseph joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1951 and became a prominent member of the Women’s League.

In 1956, Joseph was among the 156 activists arrested and charged with high treason in the Treason Trial, which lasted for four years. Although she was acquitted, the experience had a profound impact on her and strengthened her commitment to the anti-apartheid struggle.

Joseph continued to work tirelessly for the ANC and other organizations, campaigning for human rights and against apartheid. In 1963, she was placed under house arrest, and in 1964, she was banned from political activities and forced to go into exile in Britain.

Joseph returned to South Africa in 1990, after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, and continued to campaign for human rights and democracy.

She passed away on 25 December 1992, in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the age of 87.

Throughout her life, Helen Joseph fought against discrimination, injustice, and oppression. Her dedication and courage in the face of adversity inspired many others to join the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa.

Award and Legacy

Helen Joseph received several awards and recognition for her contributions to the struggle against apartheid and the promotion of human rights in South Africa. Places named after Helen Joseph include former Davenport Road in Glenwood, KwaZulu-Natal, the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg, a student residence at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, and roads in Rustenburg and Johannesburg.

Helen Joseph faced harsh repercussions for her actions, and yet, she persisted. Her lifelong fight to unite the people of South Africa was recognized by the ANC in 1992 with the Isitwalandwe/Seaparankwe Award. In honor of the historic women’s march on Pretoria and the unwavering advocacy of women like Helen Joseph, August 9 was commemorated annually as Women’s Day in South Africa.

Joseph’s legacy is that of a committed and tireless activist who fought for the rights of all South Africans, regardless of race or gender. She played a significant role in the anti-apartheid struggle and was a champion of women’s rights, advocating for the inclusion of women in the leadership of the ANC and other organizations.

The Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture is held annually to commemorate her life and contributions to the struggle against apartheid. The Helen Joseph Women’s Hospital in Johannesburg was also named in her honor, recognizing her commitment to women’s health and well-being.

Joseph’s life and work continue to inspire many people, particularly women, to stand up for their rights and fight against discrimination and injustice.

On 8 April 2021, Google celebrated Helen Joseph’s 116th birthday with a doodle.

Share This Article