- Lillian Ngoyi was the first female member of the National Executive of the ANC
- She co-founded the ANC Women's League
- She passed away due to a heart condition in 1980
The story of Lilian Ngoyi is one of triumph, struggle and endurance. South Africa’s mother of black resistance fought against the evils of racism and oppression throughout her life. Having passed away in 1980, Ngoyi did not taste the fruits of her labour.
A Bapedi woman from Sekhukhuneland in the historic Transvaal, Ngoyi dreamed of becoming an educator before she left school to support her family. She had various jobs as a cleaner, a nurse, and a representative in the Garments Workers’ Union before joining the ANC in 1952. A year later, she was arrested for protesting discriminatory race laws.
Soon after, in 1955, Ngoyi became the first woman involved in the National Executive of the ANC, Briefly.co.za discovered.
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Ngoyi strived for the liberation of women and along with beloved icons - Helen Suzeman, Charlotte Mxeke, Helen Joseph and Ida Mtwana - founded the ANC Women’s League.
Ngoyi bravely led over 20 000 women in protest against pass laws on 9 August, 1956. The women marched to the Union Building building, declaring, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.” She knocked on the door of the then-Prime Minister, JG Strijdom, to give him the petitions collected.
The anniversary of the momentous occasion has now come to be celebrated as National Women’s Day.
But the struggle was far from over and during the state of emergency in the 1960s, Ngoyi was arrested without trial, later spending five months in solitary confinement for her efforts to achieve peace for all South Africans. In total, 71 days of her life were unjustly spent in a Johannesburg prison.
Even after her sentence, she spent the rest of her life as a restricted person and her activities were hindered by the Apartheid government.
Ngoyi passed away in her Soweto home on 13 March, 1980 at the age of 68 due to a heart condition.
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