Helen Joseph’s 116th Birthday

Helen Joseph's 116th Birthday

Helen Joseph’s 116th Birthday – In recognition of her 116th birthday, today’s Doodle celebrates English-born, South African activist, Helen Joseph. 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.

Born on this day in 1905, Joseph spent her early years living in London. She completed a degree in English at King’s College London in 1927, and later settled in Durban, South Africa.

Apartheid laws, which were enacted in 1948, divided South Africa along racial lines and extended to many facets of daily life. In 1951, Joseph took a position with the Garment Workers Union where she met Solly Sachs, who educated Joseph on South Africa’s political landscape and the realities of apartheid. Joseph soon became a founding member of the Congress of Democrats (COD), a white political ally of the African National Congress (ANC), and on August 9, 1956, Joseph co-led a march of 20,000 women with the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) on Pretoria’s Union Buildings. Joseph’s fearless opposition resulted in government-led attempts to silence her but despite the backlash, Joseph remained active, taking in the children of exiled or imprisoned political activists, including Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s children. 

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.

Happy birthday, Helen Joseph!


Learn more about anti-apartheid freedom fighter and women’s rights advocate, Helen Joseph, on Google Arts & Culture.

You can find more about Helen Joseph’s 116th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page


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