This important book brings together the previously unpublished letters of three women, Lilian Ngoyi, Bessie Head and Dora Taylor. While Ngoyi, Head and the lesser-known Taylor each made vital and perhaps under-appreciated contributions to the southern African struggle, these letters record their ordinary, domestic lives as well as touching on the socio-political struggles which they conducted from within their homes. Bessie Head was a writer of novels, short stories and social history, and towards the end of her life was celebrated internationally. Dora Taylor, a white woman who was an early member of the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM), was also a writer, but her longer work, was not published until after her death and she is still not a widely known public figure. Lilian Ngoyi was an ANC leader and one of the organisers of the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria and she was repeatedly arrested for her involvement in trade union and political matters. Each woman writes to one trusted friend or relative. Ngoyi, Head and Taylor did not know each other but are linked by their political sympathies, their comparable vocations and practices, and by the fact that each had to endure her own version of exile as a result of her activities. These letters record all three writers’ joys and sorrows as they struggled to live principled lives in adversity. As well as giving access to the thoughts of three remarkable women letter-writers, this timely book presents letters as literary artefacts, not just sources of information and opinion. It invites readers to taste the intriguing and sometimes disturbing pleasures of reading personal letters.
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