PIONEER

Frances Goitsemang Baard

Frances Baard. Paul Weinberg / South Photos / Africa Media Online
Frances Baard. Paul Weinberg / South Photos / Africa Media Online

Unionist | Human Rights Activist | ANC Women’s League founding member

Born: 1 October 1909 Died: 2 June 1997

“Africa is my home – I cannot be banished.”

Who was
Frances Goitsemang Baard?

Organiser of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), trade unionist and anti-apartheid activist.

Professions
and Roles

Trade unionist, political activist, local secretary of the African Food and Canning Workers’ Union, founding member of ANCWL in Port Elizabeth and member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW).

Best Known For

Contributions to the ANCWL, FEDSAW, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU).

Life highlights

  • Baard worked as a domestic helper for almost 15 years and then as a teacher before becoming involved in the anti-apartheid movement.
  • From the 1940s, Baard became a trade unionist and women’s leader.
  • In 1948, she was recruited by Ray Alexander Simons to join the African Food and Canning Worker’s Union. She became the union’s local secretary and came into contact with the ANC.
  • Together with Florence Matomela she formed an ANCWL in Port Elizabeth in the 1950s.
  • In 1954, Baard and Matomela built up the FEDSAW, where they both became executive committee members.
  • In 1955, Baard became one of the few female executive committee members of SACTU.
  • Baard was among the 156 people charged with treason in December 1956, but the charges were dropped in 1958.
  • Baard received her first banning order in 1960 and was arrested but not charged in 1963, kept in solitary confinement for an entire year without visitors or reading materials. She was eventually charged and given a five-year sentence for her involvement with the ANC.
  • In 1969, she was released and banished to live in the outskirts of Pretoria.
  • In 1983, Baard was one of the honorary patrons’ speakers that launched the United Democratic Front.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

“Africa is my home – I cannot be banished.”

– Frances Baard


IN THE WORDS OF OTHERS

“She held strong beliefs and was very brave. This in itself led to many clashes with the SA Police as she made herself vocal in expressing her dissatisfaction against the deterioration of men’s single hostels, the rejection of Bantu Education, the opinion of women in the governing of South Africa, and refusing to carry a pass, etc.”

– Hazel Jenkins, former Northern Cape Premier, 2009

In 2001, the district of Kimberley was renamed after her as the Frances Baard District Municipality. In commemoration of her role in the Women’s March on 9 August 1956, a bronze statue of her was also unveiled in Kimberley in 2014, with the inscription on the granite plinth reading, “My spirit is not banned. I still say I want freedom in my lifetime.”

EXPLORE THE ARCHIVE

Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994