From the book: My Spirit Is Not Banned by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner

Factory work

After my children were born I started working again, but now I went to work at the factories because I was a housewife. We had got a house, and at the factory I could come home after work to look after the house and my children. When I was doing domestic work I used to stay all the time at work, so the factor was better now because I had some time at home.

I found work at a canning factory, a fruit-canning factory. There were three canning factories in Port Elizabeth: H. Jones, Langeberg, which made Koo fruit, and the orange factory, Vaal Orange, where they used to make orange juice and so forth. There were quite a lot of jobs in these factories around that time because they were getting very big during the war.

Conditions in these factories were not right. I mean, we had to work with our clothes just like this how we went to work, and the juice from the fruit used to eat our clothes. We did peeling and canning the fruit, and when we didn't have plastic aprons and gloves, our fingers and clothes were eaten up by the juice of the fruit. Of course, there were some aprons and things, but they were never enough for all of us. So we used to stand there in our ordinary clothes to work the fruit. I remember pineapple was the important thing, and then there were apricots and some other fruits.

The fruit was brought to the factory in trucks. Many of those trucks used to come, about nine or 12 big trucks every day. After the fruit had arrived on the trucks, we had to sort it out by size and colour and so on, all the same one side, one side. Then that fruit had to be washed and peeled and cut up into pieces, and the pips must be taken out. Then the fruit is put into big bins and some syrup is added to it for sugar. Then it must be put in the tins and sealed. We had to work until all that fruit was finished because if we left it, the next day some of it would be rotten already, and there would be more fruit coming in that day which we must do. We used to start at about six o'clock in the morning, and we must work until all the fruit is finished, even if we finish at about 10 o'clock in the evening.

When I went to the factory they gave me a job doing the canning. I did that job for a time, until they made me a sort of supervisor for the girls, so I must look after them as they work, and make sure everything is going right.

I used to walk to that factory every morning, in winter, and in summer. Even if it was raining we walked to the factory. There were no buses going there from where we lived. Even if we came home very late we had to walk. But we were lucky because there were streetlights in our location so it was not very bad at night. But we had to leave home very early in the morning and only come home very late.

I had children at that time, and we suffered with our children. It was mostly women who were working in our factory, and many had children. They used to employ women in the canning factories because they were women's jobs those. The women always work faster than the men with all the peeling and cutting and taking the pips out, and with those factories you can't, be slow; you must just be like this all the time, quickly, quickly, quickly. And then too, they could pay the women less than they paid the men. Even today they still pay women less than men.

I had to get a woman to look after my children while I was at work. When I come back at night, they are already asleep. Then I have to make new fires and start to cook for them for the next day. The next morning I must leave for work again about half past five, and the children are still sleeping. So they don't see me at all unless perhaps they get up in the night for something. I just cook the food and leave it there for them for the next day. Things went on like that, every day, working hard, getting home late, and the conditions not good, and nothing to help the workers.

The ANC and the Women’s League

The start of mass campaigns


The Defiance Campaign

Forming the Federation

Bantu Education boycott

The South African Congress of Trade Unions

The Congress of the People

The fight against passes continues

On trial for treason


Don’t eat potatoes!

The ‘special branch’