Collection BC1355 - Black Sash Collection

Reference code



Black Sash Collection


  • 1950-1990 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

20 boxes

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Administrative history

Born in 1955 out of outrage over an artificial enlargement of the Senate that enabled entrenched clauses of the 1910 Constitution to be amended, the Black Sash has fought tirelessly against injustice and inequality in South Africa for six decades. When the first six women mobilised the support of thousands of others to march in protest against laws aimed at removing so-called ‘coloured’ people from the voters’ roll, they could have had little idea of what was to follow. It all started when the six middle-class white women - Jean Sinclair, Ruth Foley, Elizabeth McLaren, Tertia Pybus, Jean Bosazza, and Helen Newton-Thompson – met for tea on 19 May 1955 to discuss the specific Parliamentary Bill designed to increase the number of National Party representatives in the Senate in order to pass the Separate Representation of Voters Bill. Calling themselves the ‘Women’s Defence of the Constitution League’, they organized marches, petitions, overnight vigils, protest meetings and a convoy of cars from Johannesburg to Cape Town. They became known for the symbol of a black sash, worn by members, and draped over a symbolic replica of the Constitution when the Senate Bill and the Separate Representation of Voters Bill were eventually passed. Despite their failed challenge, the women of the League refused to pack away their black sashes, worn in mourning over the loss of Constitutional rights. Instead, they formally took on the name of the Black Sash and embarked on new campaigns against the erosion of civil liberties, racial segregation and the damage inflicted by the policy of migrant labour.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated by Black Sash members

Scope and content

This collection comprises the papers of various Black Sash members: Karin Chubb, Bunty Aitcheson, and Mary Fourie.


System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

Contact University of Cape Town Libraries: Special Collections for information about accessing this collection.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

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Finding aids

Only a high lever record of this collection is maintained in AtoM. For a list of the contents, see

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Related descriptions


An obituary for Peggy North (nee Peggy Moyle), 3 June 1931 - 22 February 2019, written by Kay McCormick, is contained in the administrative folders of this collection and of BC668, and in the biography folders of the McMillan Clippings Collection.

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