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Interesting Facts About South African Activist Helen Joseph



Interesting Facts about South African activist Helen Joseph

Search engine giant Google celebrates the 116th birthday of British-born South African anti-apartheid activist Helen Joseph with a Google Doodle on April 8, 2021.

helen joseph 116th birthday
Google Doodle on Helen Joseph’s 116th Birthday

Here is a look at the life and work of Helen Joseph.


  • Birth name: Helen Beatrice May Fennell
  • Birthdate: 8 April 1905
  • Birthplace: Easebourne near Midhurst, West Sussex, England
  • Died on: 25 December 1992 (aged 87)
  • Death place: Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Father name: Samuel Fennell
  • Spouse: Billie Joseph
  • Nationality: South African
  • Sun Sign: Aries
  • Education:
    • Roman Catholic convent schools
    • King’s College of the University of London, 1928
    • University of London, Diploma of Theology, 1975
  • Famous as: Anti-apartheid activist
  • Notable award: Isitwalandwe/Seaparankwe Medal

35 Interesting Facts about Helen Joseph

  1. Helen Joseph is a famous British activist. She was born on April 8, 1905, and her birthplace is West Sussex, Easebourne, England.
  2. She experienced childhood in London, with her parents and brother, Frank. She graduated with a degree in English from the University of London in 1927.
  3. In 1928, Helen Joseph showed up in Hyderabad, one of the biggest princely states in India, to teach at the Mahbubia School for Indian girls. She at that point educated for three years in India, at Mahbubia School, a school for Indian girls in Hyderabad (1928–30).
  4. While in India, she made friends with Indians, be that as it may, and this experience conceivably assisted with raising her cognizance about racial oppression once she showed up in South Africa.
  5. Helen Joseph moved to South Africa (1931) after a serious horseback riding accident cut off on her teaching exercises.
  6. She at that point came to live in Durban, South Africa c. 1931, where she met and Billie Joseph, a dentist who was 17 years her senior. After the war, she divorced Billie Joseph in 1939.
  7. Helen Joseph trained as a social worker and began working in a community centre in a Coloured (mixed race) area of Cape Town.
  8. Billie soon joined the South African Dental Corps. Somewhat later, Helen Joseph applied to become a lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and moved from Durban to Pretoria, the executive capital of the Union.
  9. Her service as a data and welfare officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War (1939–45), and her subsequent decision to become a social worker, presented her with some of the realities of South African life.
  10. After the war, Helen Joseph took a job with the Garment Workers Union (GWU) and went under the influence of Solly Sachs, Johanna Cornelius, and Anna Scheepers.
  11. Solly Sachs moved to London, and Joseph went with him, however decided inevitably to get back to South Africa to be more associated with the battle against apartheid.
  12. On May 24, 1952, Helen Joseph partook in her first major political exhibit, joining a huge number of laborers in a march through Johannesburg to fight the public authority’s activity.
  13. Helen Joseph was a founder member of the African National Congress (ANC’s) a white partner, the Congress of Democrats (COD), and national secretary of Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) during the 1950s.
  14. In 1951, she became secretary of the Medical Aid Fund of the Garment Workers’ Union in Johannesburg.
  15. In 1955, Helen Joseph was one of the leaders who read out the clauses of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People.
  16. The Women’s March on 9 August 1956 was one of the most memorable moments of her distinguished political career, as she was one of the primary coordinators of the protest.
  17. On August 9, 1956, 20,000 South African women of all races, from each region in South Africa, traveled to Pretoria to protest apartheid and the issuing of passes to black women.
  18. The date of August 9, presently celebrated every year in South Africa as National Women’s Day is viewed as a high point in women’s collective participation in the battle against apartheid.
  19. Helen Joseph was elected honorary secretary of the Transvaal branch and in 1956 became secretary of the Federation.
  20. Arrested on a charge of high treason in December 1956, and restricted in 1957, Helen’s life became a long saga of police persecution.
  21. Joseph worked intimately with ANC leaders and met Chief Albert Luthuli, who was head of the ANC and became more acquainted with Nelson Mandela.
  22. Helen Joseph’s intrepid resistance brought about government-led attempts to silence her however notwithstanding the backlash, Joseph stayed active, taking in the children of exiled or detained political activists, including Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s children.
  23. Joseph had lost interest in religion when she left school, she would start to go to church routinely during her second term of house arrest during the 1960s.
  24. Helen Joseph was one of the denounced in the Treason Trial which was the South African apartheid government’s response to the adoption of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People. The preliminary went on until 1961 when all the blamed were seen not guilty.
  25. She was the first person to be put under house arrest in 1962, and she survived a few assassination attempts, including bullets shot through her bedroom late around evening time and a bomb wired to her front gate.
  26. On Christmas Day every year, Helen Joseph would invite her comrades to join her at her home for a celebration of all the anti-apartheid fighters. Around early afternoon they would raise their glasses to the prisoners at Robben Island.
  27. Helen Joseph was diagnosed with cancer in 1971, and her prohibiting orders were lifted for a short time before being reestablished for two years in 1980.
  28. In 1972, she made a national tour of English-speaking white universities of South Africa as honorary national VP of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS).
  29. In 1990, Helen Joseph lived to see the day that the ANC was unbanned and Nelson Mandela left jail a free man.
  30. Helen Joseph passed on in Johannesburg on Christmas Day, December 25, 1992, at age 87, two years before South Africa’s general election of Nelson Mandela as its first black president.
  31. At her funeral in 1993, her close friend Nelson Mandela characterized her as “a figure which has helped to shape our destiny and an indelible part of our history.”
  32. Helen Joseph was awarded the ANC’s highest award, the Isitwalandwe/Seaparankoe Medal for her dedication to the freedom battle as a symbol of defiance, integrity, and courage.
  33. Clifton School (Durban) named a library after Helen Joseph who taught there when she first came to South Africa. The library contains an especially commissioned representation.
  34. Places named after Helen Joseph recognize former Davenport Road for Glenwood, KwaZulu-Natal, the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg, a student home at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, and streets in Rustenburg and Johannesburg.
  35. On April 8, 2021, Google honored Helen Joseph’s 116th Birthday with a Google Doodle.

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