Online Exhibitions


August is known as Women’s month in south Africa. It is time when we commemorate the women who sacrificed their lives for their people across the continent. At Freedom Park, at the gallery of leaders (GOL) we have honoured powerful women who protected and nurtured their people throughout their journeys.

It has always dawned that women remain the primary actors in the emancipation of the suppressed voices. Being the advocates of human rights, women continue to be the pivots that ensure that peace, justice, and non-sexism prevail within the human existence. In the same vein, Freedom Park continues to embrace this phenomenal contribution by women in the struggle for humanity.

In honour of Women’s month Freedom Park is hosting an exhibition that highlights some of the iconic female figures and political activists that were deeply involved in fighting for the liberation of their people, Charlotte Maxeke, Empress Zewditu, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi, Mofumahali Manthatisi, Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Ruth First, Queen Nzinga, Queen Nandi and Sheena Duncan.


Empress Zewditu   


Born in Harrar, Ethopia, on 29 April 1876, to Abechi (mother) who was a Shewan noblewoman  and father who was King Menelik 11. Empress Zewditu was crowned the Queen of Kings( Empress) and her cousin Tafari Mekonnen (the future Emperor Haile Selassie) was appointed Prime Minister. Empress Zewditu promoted the Ethopian Prthodox Church and built numerous churches and temples throughout her empire. She supported he Prime Minister (Mekonneh) in abolishing slavery and leading the Empire into the Leaguue of Nations . With these reforms Mekonnen was ruler in fact, if not in name , during the last years of Zewditu’s reign. Zewditu name means “The Crown” was the first internationally recognised female head of a country in Africa. Empress Zewditu died on 2 April 1930.

Queen Ana Nzinga

Queen Anna Nzinga was born in Luanda , Angola in 1582 to his parents King Kiluanji and Kangela. Queen Anna was a Christian baptised into the Catholic Faith. In 1623 Queen Anna became the Governor of Luanda. She attended a peace conference with the Portuguese. The Portuguese demanded that the slave trade concessions be increased but Ana Nzinga refused to allow them to control her nation. She recognised that to refuse to trade with them would remove a potential ally and the major source of guns for her own state.In 1947she forged an alliance with the Dutch who had conquered Luanda in 1641 and with their help defeated the Portuguese. During her reign and her fight for freedom of her country, she demonstrated bravery, intelligence and a relentless drive to bring about peace for her people. Nzinga died in 1663.

Mofumahali Manthatisi

Mofumahali Manthatisi was born at Harrismith District the border between Free State, Kwazulu Natal and Lesotho. Mofumahali Manthatisi became the leader of baTlokwa from 1813-1824. She was a reowned military commander, known as the fighting Queen of the Wild Cat People. She was one of the best known and most feared woman military and political leaders of the early 19th Century. She went to extreme measures to protect her people. One day Manthatisi saw the enermy approaching, she gathered up all the women and formed them in ranks, then placed males in front, then walked towards the enermy. When viewed from the distance they all presented a strong force of warriors which gave the enemy, who had hoped to find the camp defenseless as most men went to hunt.

Mofumahali Manthatisi ruled over 40 000 people, exercising the duties of the chief, consulting elders for advice, advancing her political authority and adjudicating disputes. Famous for her intelligence, she was a strong, capable and popular leader. She had a royal kraal which was called Nkwe, a name taken from the large wildcat or leopard. Manthatisi died in 1836 and was laid to rest in Jwala -Bahoto.

Charlotte Maxeke


Charlotte Maxeke was born on April 7th 1871 in the Eastern Cape and died on the 16th of October 1939. She was married to a fellow missionary she had met in university, Dr. Marshall Maxeke.

Charlotte started missionary school at the age of 8 at the Edward Memorial School. She then moved on to university at the Wilberforce University in USA, through a Scholarship she was given by Bishop Payne, studying BSc and became the first black South African woman to graduate.

Her family lived in Kimberley, where she was a teacher. Charlotte was a devoted church goer and also a good singer. She, along with her sister, joined a choir called the African Jubilee. She toured through all the major cities in England with the choir, performing even in front of Queen Victoria herself, at her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The choir continued its tour through Canada and America.

Charlotte moved to Everton with her husband where they founded the Wilberforce institute and also compiled and published the first AME church Hymn book in Xhosa. She was later elected as the president of the Woman’s missionary society and appointed as the head teacher at the Lotta high school, with her husband as principal and Pastor of the school. They both joined the joint council of Europeans and Africans. Attended the launch of the SANNC, Charlotte being the only woman to attend. She also participated in multi-racial movements and addressed woman’s reforms concerned with women’s voting rights.

Charlotte also became the first ever woman to participate in court, at the king Sebata’s court. She formed part of the organizing of the Anti-pass for black women as the leader of the Bantu Women’s league in 1918. She helped form the industrial and commercial workers union in 1920. In 1928, charlotte led the establishment of the National Council of Women. In 1930 she became the first black woman probation officer for juvenile development, this was due to her increasing concern for the plight of black youth. She also testified in a number of government commissions in matters concerning African Education, which led to her being offered a number of job met for white people. One of the most impactful quotes by Charlotte was “kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people but live with them- if you can rise, bring someone with you”.


Helen Joseph

Born in Sussex England, on April 8th of 1905, and married to, dental surgeon, Billie Joseph for 17 years. Died on the 25th of December 1992 in Johannesburg. Helen did not have any children of her own but cared for the children of those who were in Prison or in exile during apartheid. Helen graduated with a BA degree in English from Kings College University and later obtained her diploma in Social Work from Wits University.

Helen worked as a welfare officer during World War II in the UK, which encouraged her to become a social worker once she got to South Africa. Through her line of work, she got exposed to the harsh realities of South Africa and got into politics to fight against apartheid. Helen hated her “white privileged” position while many black women and children suffered and being oppressed. Helen then joined the militant Garment workers union, led by Solly Sachs, which was where she learnt all her politics.

One of the most famous quotes from Helen is, “when this country is free, I want to be here…to know I have earned my place in it”.


Sheena Duncan

Born on the 7th of December 1932 and died on the 4th of May 2020. Sheena was married to Neil Duncan and had two children.Sheena studied Domestic science at the Edinburgh college and worked as a Domestic science teacher in Zimbabwe. In 1963 Sheena and her family moved back to South Africa and She joined the Black sash Movement which her mother, Jean Sinclair was one of its founding members. Sheena became President and vice President of the BSM between the  1975 till 1986. In 1985 Sheena got arrested in Uitenhage for protesting against Police Shootings.

Sheena was a Human Rights campaigner and also a member of the 'National Co-Ordinating Committee for the Return of Exiles', the 'Independent Board of Inquiry into Informal Repression', and a 'Patron of the Society for the Abolition of the Death Penalty'. She also worked on the 'End Conscription Campaign.’

In the 1970s she joined the Anglican church's challenge Group,  this was a movement that intended to end racism within the church.

In 1987 she was elected Vice President of the South African Council of Churches.She became the Chairperson and Patron of 'Gun Free South Africa.' In her political journey she lectured in South Africa and other countries. Sheena Duncan wrote a number of publications on issues such as Forced Removals and Pass Laws.

Lilian Ngoyi

Born in Pretoria, 25 September 1911 and died 13 March 1980.Lilian worked as a nurse, domestic assistant, and in a clothing factory as a machinist from 1945-1956. Ngoyi found a passion in humanitarian work after joining the garment workers’ union there. She was arrested in 1950 for using the white toilets in a post office that were reserved for white people. Lilian was arrested again in 1953 for participating in the congress's anti-race laws campaign. She joined the ANC in 1952, with other political figures who formed the women's league of the African National Congress. Lilian served as a delegate to the world mother's conference in Switzerland, where she received acclaim for speaking out against apartheid in the ANC.

Ngoyi was elected president of the ANC women's league in 1956. She is best remembered for leading over 20 thousand demonstrations against the inclusion of women in the pass laws for black movement, where the prime minister later passed on. Lilian was detained in 1960 in pretoria prison in solitary confinement after a state emergency. In 1963, several ANC leaders were arrested, including Ngoyi, for 90 days in jail, of which she spent 71 days. She was restricted in her movements and contacts from her release until her death in 1980. She was able to make money by sewing at home for the last 18 years of her life. Lilian's entire life was a struggle against injustice and oppression of black people. She died in johannesburg on March 13,1980, at the age of 68. In an interview with the bantu world' newspaper in 1955, she said that her womb is not shaken when she speaks of bantu education, referring to minister of native affairs Hendricks Verwoerd’s statement that there is no place for the bantu in the european community above the level of a particular form of labor, and also asking what the point of teaching bantu child mathematics if they are not going to practice it.



Freedom Park wishes to acknowledge the contribution made by Quality Assurance Committee and Content Development Committee for the research and content development of Gallery of Leaders ( GOL).






























Tourism Grading


What's On

22 Nov 2023;
DSI Men’s Session
09 Dec 2023;
Ubuntu Festival

Download Our App