Ruth First

By: Heather Luby

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Ruth First was born to two Jewish immigrants who were left-wing activists. As a young 14 year old, Ruth was already a part of a young left-wing book club. In school, Ruth did extremely well. She graduated high school and then continued onto the University of the Witwatersrand. Upon graduating college, Ruth briefly worked for the city council before beginning her career in journalism. In 1949, Ruth married a fellow activist and communist. Throughout her life, Ruth published a few books, explaining her distaste of the government. In 1982, Ruth was killed by a letter bomb sent to her in the mail by South African security agents.

Ruth First was very important in the anti- Apartheid movement. In 1953, she helped build the South African Congress of Democrats to help fight against the government with the ANC. Ruth was also on the drafting committee of the Freedom Charter. Once openly working with such administrations became too dangerous, after being arrested a time or two, Ruth began getting involved with anti-apartheid politics more. She wrote novels exposing the horrors of Apartheid to the rest of the world. Ruth died too soon, but because of all of her dedication and hard work, she helped spread the word of what was really going on in Apartheid, and played a major role in the Anti-Apartheid movement.

117 Days


An unforgettable account of defiance against political terror by one of South Africa’s pioneering anti-apartheid activists

An invaluable testimonial of the excesses of the apartheid system, 117 Days presents the harrowing chronicle of journalist Ruth First’s isolation and abuse at the hands of South African interrogators after her arrest in 1963. Upon her arrest, she was detained in solitary confinement under South Africa’s notorious ninety-day detention law. This is the story of the war of nerves that ensued between First and her Special Branch captors-a work that remains a classic portrait of oppression and the dignity of the human spirit.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators."


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