Hilda Bernstein


Hilda Bernstein (1915-2006)

Hilda Bernstein was born in 1913 in London but in 1933 went to live in South Africa, where she married Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein; they had four children between 1944 and 1956. She was elected to the Johannesburg City Council as a communist; worked as a journalist (and was a well-known public speaker); helped found the multi-racial Federation of South African Women; and worked closely with the ANC Women’s League in opposition to apartheid. Her books include one about Steve Biko, a thriller, an oral history of life under apartheid, and Separation, a memoir about her family. The World that was Ours came out in 1967, three years after the 1964 Rivonia Trial at which her husband was acquitted but Nelson Mandela and others were sentenced to life imprisonment. Having escaped to England, Hilda Bernstein continued to write, became a successful painter, and was much in demand as a speaker; she went to live in Cape Town for the last few years of her life. She died in September 2006.

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