Hilda Bernstein passes away

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Saturday, 9 September 2006

South Africa reacted with shock at the passing away of veteran political activist, artist and writer Hilda Bernstein. She passes away on the 9th September 2006 in Cape Town at the age of 91 from an aneurysm. In 1932 Bernstein and her mother immigrated to South Africa from England. She worked in the advertising and later publishing and journalism sectors. Some years after moving to South Africa, Bernstein got involved in politics when she joined the South African Labour Party League of Youth, of which she remained a member until 1940, when she left to join the Communist Party of South Africa. She made a historic entry into the Johannesburg City Council when she became the first communist to be elected as councillor to public office in South Africa on a "Whites only" vote. Bernstein participated actively in the major South Africa liberation struggle campaigns such as the 1946 African Mine Workers' Strike, the 1952 Defiance Campaign, the 1955 Freedom Charter Campaign and 1960 Sharpeville Campaign.

Bernstein was arrested and issued with banning orders on several occasions for her involvement in political activities. After the 1964 Rivonia Trial, Bernstein and her husband Rusty Bernstein fled the country on foot to Botswana from where they proceeded to London. Her contribution to the liberation struggle was acknowledged by South Africa when President Thabo Mbeki honoured her with the National Order of Luthuli two years ago.

Last updated : 09-Sep-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011