The Politics of the 1920s Black Press: Charlotte Maxeke and Nontsizi Mgqwetho's Critique of Congress
One of the most contested aspects in South Africa's historiography has been women's involvement in the politics of resistance. The work of feminists in the 1970s and 1980s began to question the invisibility of women's protest and presence in South Africa's historiography. The pass protest of 1956 was seen as the dominant narrative of women's involvement in protests. Other forms of political involvement were erased, and women were only represented as having staged a protest march against the pass laws. However, more evidence has emerged, which challenges the forms of political involvement by women--and more importantly, more is being done to unearth the names of the women--whose works have been ignored. This article explores the writings by charlotte Maxeke and Nontsizi Mgqwetho, as they appeared in the 1920s in Umteteli waBantu. Much has been written about charlotte Maxeke as a formidable leader in the early twentieth century, who founded the Bantu Women's League, after returning from Wilberforce University as the first black woman to get a degree. Maxeke's hypervisibility is contrasted with Nontsizi Mgqwetho's obscurity. Both these women wrote about the politics of their times, directing much criticism at the South African Native National congress, which was founded in 1912, which excluded women from its membership at its inception. This article argues that their writings challenge the notion of black women as silent figures, who were not involved in the politics of the early twentieth century.