Charlotte Maxeke

By: Lilly Heald

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Charlotte Maxeke was the first women in South Africa to fight for women's rights against apartheid. She was born in April of 1874 and spent most of her early life in the Eastern Cape. Her and her sister joined the African Jubilee Choir in 1891 and toured in England and the Unites States. While in the US, Maxeke attended Wilberforce University in Ohio and, in 1901, returned to South Africa as the first black female graduate. She lived in Polokwane and tried to start a school there, but the town was very poor and their was not enough government funding to keep the school running. Despite this failure, Maxeke still wanted to make people's lives better. In 1912 her and her husband attended the first official African National Congress meeting. This inspired her to start the ANC Women's League in 1918 which proved to be one of her biggest accomplishments. She was involved in protests of low wages and the issuing of passes to women. She was an important women figure in the anti-pass movement and helped to organize a protest in Bloemfontein. She was also involved in the creation of the Industrial and Commercial Worker's Union as well as participating in several multiracial groups like the Joint Council of Europeans and Bantus. She understood the struggle Africans were going through and even set up an employment agency in Johannesburg. She was coined as the "Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa" and was a very influential figure for women.


Maxeke was the first women to really take a stand against apartheid. She showed that women deserved the same rights as men and that nobody deserved to be treated differently because of their race. She proved to women that anybody can graduate college and make a difference in the world. She stood as a symbol of hope for all African women and truly kickstarted the campaign for women against apartheid by creating the ANC Women's League. Maxeke demonstrated how women were necessary to this movement and that the non whites would never overcome their oppressors without the support of both males and females. Maxeke also supported all races working together and pushed for a united South Africa. Without Maxeke, South Africa would not be where it is today because she instilled a source of confidence for women right from the beginning.
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Section from the ANC Women's League Constitution


The name of the organisation shall be the ANC Women's League hereafter referred to as the Women's League and in the abbreviated form ANCWL.

The Logo and the colours of the ANC WL are described in the schedule of the WL.


The aims and the objectives of the ANC Women's League shall be:

2.1 To mobilise, organise and unite South African Women to participate in the struggle for the liberation of all oppressed groups;

2.2 To spearhead the objectives, policies and programmes of the ANCWL and the African National Congress, amongst women in particular, and society in general;

2.3 To spearhead the emancipation of women within the African National Congress and its structures and at all levels of government and South African Society as a whole;

2.4 To promote the all-round development of women and help in building their own confidence and to interpret their needs nationally;

2.5 To promote among and through women and young women in particular, national consciousness, patriotism, unity and a sense of accountability at all levels;

2.6 To promote women's participation in every sector of public life and to strive for women's participation in every office;

2.7 To combat discrimination in public and in private life and institutions and to work actively towards the dismantling of the patriarchal system, the elimination of laws, customs, practices and structures which militate against equality and to oppose any strengthening of patriarchy;

2.8 To campaign for the adoption and implementation of affirmative action programmes to combat the legacy of past gender and race discrimination;

2.9 To campaign for an end to all forms of violence against women, children and other vulnerable groups;

2.10 To co-operate with democratic organisations for the promotion of peace and development locally, regionally, nationally and internationally; and

2.11 To campaign for a culture and recognition of women's rights as human rights.


"Charlotte (née Manye) Maxeke." Anonymous. South African History Online, n.d. Web. 11

Nov. 2015.

Gasa, Nomboniso. "Independent Online." Independent Online. N.p., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 11

Nov. 2015.

Maxeke, Charlotte. "African National Congress Women's League Constitution." African National Congress, July 2008. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.