31 Days of Herstory: Lillian Masediba Ngoyi

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Lilian Masediba Ngoyi was an anti-apartheid activist and President of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League.

A committed and dedicated activist, her work was recognised early. During her time working as a machinist, Lilian joined the Garment Worker’s Union (GWU), soon becoming one of it’s leading figures. In 1952, she joined the ANC Women’s League and after one year, she was elected as it’s president. When the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was formed in 1954, she became one of its national vice-presidents, and in 1956 she was elected president.

1955 saw Lilian travelling to Swizerland for the World Congress of Mothers held by the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) and was invited to tour Russian and other eastern bloc countries. She became a member of the Transvaal ANC committee in 1955 and in 1956 she was the first woman to be elected to the ANC national executive committee.

With Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Bertha Gxowa and Albertina Sisulu, Lilian led a march on 20,000 women in Pretoria and protest against the government’s requirement for women to carry passbooks and part of the pass laws, one of the largest demonstrations on South African history.

In 1956, as a result of her anti-apartheid activism, she was arrested and charged with high treason along with 155 others at the and was subjected to a number of bannings and house arrests.

Lilian Lilian Ngoyi died at age 69 in 1980.

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