Harriette Emily Colenso was She was born in Norfolk, England, in 1847, the oldest child of Bishop John William Colenso of Natal. Until her father's death in 1883, she acted as his assistant, helping in the publication of his Digest of Zulu Affairs and in his efforts to protect the Africans of Natal and Zululand against the threatening policies of both settlers and British administrators. Like her father, she became an emotional partisan of the Zulu monarchy, taking the side of Cetshwayo and later of his son, Dinuzulu, in their confrontations with colonial authority.

Colenso was energetic defender of the interests of the Zulu, in particular the Zulu royal house, in the four decades before Union During Dinuzulu's decade of exile on St. Helena, she wrote numerous pamphlets and letters of protest, working through the Aborigines Protection Society, the Colonial Office, and indirectly through her London-based brother, Francis Colenso, to influence the British Parliament and public in Dinuzulu's favor. This effort, during which she became the first woman to give testimony before the House of Commons, eventually succeeded, and in 1898 Dinuzulu was permitted to return to Zululand. Following Bambata's Rebellion in 1906, she again argued the case for Dinuzulu's exoneration, this time unsuccessfully, in the face of settler determination that the authority of the Zulu king be broken once and for all.

She did not confine her sympathies and interest to Zulu traditionalists but also kept in touch with the activities and opinions of educated Africans in Natal. In 1899 she was consulted by Martin Lutuli, Saul Msane, and J. T. Gumede at a time when they were considering the launching of the Natal Native Congress. Sol Plaatje dedicated his Native Life in South Africa to her. She continued her missionary work until her death at Sweetwaters, Natal, in 1932. Her papers are preserved in the Natal archives at Pietermaritzburg.

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