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Helen Joseph
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    (April 8, 1905-December 25, 1992)
    Born in Easebourne, England, United Kingdom
    Birth name was Helen Fennell
    Settled in South Africa (1931)
    Became an anti-apartheid activist
    Founding member of the Congress of Democrats (1952) and Federation of South African Women (1954)
    Led a march of 20,000 women to the Presidential residence in Pretoria to protest restrictive pass laws (August 9, 1956)
    One of 156 activists arrested for high treason (1956)
    Found not guilty (1961)
    During her first years in South Africa, she was a socialite: 'She was known as beautiful and flighty, leading a life of wining and dining and bridge parties.'
    Her response to criminal allegations against Winnie Mandela was 'I know Winnie. She would not do such things.'
    She tried to persuade Nelson Mandela to not negotiate with South African President F.W. De Klerk.
    She became a social worker after WWII and was exposed to the racial inequities in South Africa, triggering her activism.
    She was repeatedly placed under house arrest.
    After he first house arrest ended, she traveled 8,000 miles through South Africa to locate the 'forgotten people,' anti-apartheid activists who had been banished to remote rural areas.
    When Nelson and Winnie Mandela were both in jail, she served as a foster parent to their daughters, Zenzi and Zenani.
    She survived bullets shot through her bedroom window and a bomb wired to her front gate.
    She said, 'How a weary old girl, an old auntie like me, can be a threat to state security, only they can say.'
    The anniversary of the 1956 protest march she led is celebrated as South African Women's Day.

Credit: C. Fishel

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