9 August 1956: The Women's Anti-Pass March

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

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

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.

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

Arriving at the march
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

the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW)
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.

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

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

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

Singing together
After the petition was handed over to the Prime Minster's secretary, the women sang a freedom song: Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom!

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

Walking towards the Prime Minister's office
The Union Buildings housed the office of the Prime Minister.

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

Marching together
Approaching the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

You strike a woman, you strike a rock
Women sing together: Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo'!

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

A symbol of the women's struggle
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.

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

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

Women's March - 1956 (1956-09-09)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

50th anniversary
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.

Credits: Story

Photographs — Baileys African History Archive
Text — Baileys African History Archive and Africa Media Online

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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