Fonds A1985 - Papers of Helen Joseph

Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K Helen Joseph’s childhood home in the U.K
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Papers of Helen Joseph


  • 1927 - 1992 (Creation)

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Biographical history

Helen Joseph, tireless campaigner against apartheid, was born in Sussex, England on the 8th of April 1905. Before coming to South Africa in 1931, she taught in India. In 1932 she married Dr. M.W. Joseph. Between 1942 and 1946 Joseph was a full time Welfare and Information Officer in the South African Air Force, a move which was to alter her life irreversibly.

Joseph divorced in 1949. From 1951 to 1966 she became Secretary of the Transvaal Clothing Industry Medical Aid Society. It was here that she met Solly Sachs, from whom she learnt much of her politics. In 1953 Helen Joseph became a founding member and member of the National Executive Committee of the South African Congress of Democrats. She became the Transvaal Secretary and a National Executive member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) in 1954. Joseph was a speaker at the Congress of the People and in 1956 she was one of the leaders of the mass protest of 20,000 women at the Union Buildings. In December of the same year she was charged with treason. She was banned in 1957 and in 1962 she was the first person to be placed under house arrest (1962-1971).

Other organisations in which Helen Joseph was involved were: the Human Rights Welfare Committee, which aided banished people; the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), of which she was Honorary National Vice-President (elected in 1971); the Anglican Students Federation, of which she was an Honorary life President and the United Democratic Front, of which she was an Honorary Patron (elected in 1983).

Helen Joseph died on December 25th, 1992 at the age of 87.

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The Helen Joseph Papers consist of correspondence, diaries, speeches, memoranda, articles, printed items, press cuttings, posters and photographs.

The papers were built up by Helen Joseph during her life time and relate to her personal fight against apartheid. Her papers cover her involvement in politics, the Human Rights Welfare Committee, the 1956 Treason Trial, bannings, banishments, house arrests, detentions, relocations, women's issues, churches and universities.

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Access to digitised recordings:

The digital copies of the audio cassettes may be accessed by contacting Historical Papers. Please refer to the Contacts on the Historical Papers website.

Refer to the following headings for the digital copies of the interviews and other audio recordings:

A8 Tapes

The reference/call number for the digital file is the number on the left of each entry.

ISBN 1-86838-095-5

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Copyright Historical Papers Research Archive, The Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Alternate title: Joseph, Helen


The digitisation of the audio recordings in this collection was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Foundation in 2012

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