Lillian Ngoyi (Lillian Ngoyi)

Lillian Ngoyi

Lillian Ngoyi joined the ANC Women’s League in 1952; she was at that stage a widow with two children and an elderly mother to support, and worked as a seamstress. A year later she was elected as President of the Women’s League. On 9 August 1956, Ngoyi led a women’s march along with Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Motlalepula Chabaku, Bertha Gxowa and Albertina Sisulu of 20,000 women to the Union Buildings of Pretoria in protest against the apartheid government requiring women to carry passbooks as part of the pass laws. Lilian Ngoyi was also a transnational figure who recognised the potential influence that international support could have on the struggle against apartheid and the emancipation of black women. With this in mind she embarked on an audacious (and highly illegal) journey to Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1955 to participate in the World Congress of Mothers held by the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF). Accompanied by her fellow activist Dora Tamana, and as an official delegate of FEDSAW, she embarked on a journey that would see an attempt to stow away on a boat leaving Cape Town under “white names”, defy (with the help of a sympathetic pilot) segregated seating on a plane bound for London and gain entry to Britain under the pretext of completing her course in bible studies. With Tamana, she would visit England, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, China and Russia, meeting women leaders often engaged in left-wing politics, before arriving back in South Africa a wanted woman. Lillian Ngoyi was known as a strong orator and a fiery inspiration to many of her colleagues in the ANC. She was arrested in 1956, spent 71 days in solitary confinement, and was for a period of 11 years placed under severe bans and restrictions that often confined to her home in Orlando, Soweto.


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  • lilian-ngoyi-a-fiery-public-speaker -


  • September, 25, 1911
  • Pretoria, South Africa


  • March, 13, 1980
  • South Africa
  • Orlando, Soweto


  • Avalon Cemetery
  • Gauteng, South Africa

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