Womens anti-pass march

"Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo: You strike a woman you strike a rock"

By Africa Media Online

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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As part of the Anti-Pass Campaign, on August 9, 1956, 20 000 women of all races, some with babies on their backs, from the cities and towns, from reserves and villages, took a petition addressed to South Africa's Prime Minister to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Prime Minister Strijdom was not in. The petition demanded of him that the pass laws be abolished.

The march was organised by the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW). The organisation famously challenged the common view that a woman's place is in the kitchen arguing that a woman's place is everywhere.

The march was led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn.

After the petition was handed over to the Prime Minster's secretary, the women sang a freedom song: Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom! Ever since then 'wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo' (You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock) has come to represent the women's struggle in South Africa.

In commemoration of the march, South Africa has celebrated National Woman's Day on August 9 every year since 1995.

On Woman's Day in 2009 the march was reenacted to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Many of the 1956 veterans were part of the march.

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women arrive in the city and wait for the march to begin

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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The march under way!

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Approaching the Union Buildings in Pretoria

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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The Union Buildings housed the office of the Prime Minister

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women gather outside the office of the Prime Minister

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women during the handing over of the petition to the office of the Prime Minister

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Police presence during the march

Women's March - 1956, 1956-09-09, Original Source: Baileys African History Archive
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Women sing together: Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo'!

Credits: Story

Photographs—Baileys African History Archive

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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