Sophia Theresa Williams de Bruyn was born in 1938. She is the youngest of the women who led the Women’s Day March on 9 August 1956. She was just 18.
Born in Port Elizabeth she became a union leader the Textile Workers Union, and then a founding member of SACTU (South African Congress of Trade Union) which was the predecessor of COSATU. By 1955 when she was just 17 she was already the full time organiser of the Coloured People’s Congress.
On August 9, 1956, she, along with Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu, led the march of 20 000 women on the Union Buildings to protest against the requirement that women carry pass books.
She is the only living leader of the march and she is one of the 21 Icons selected by the project to honour prominent South Africans. For the 21 Icons portrait photographer Adrian Steirn took Williams De Bruyn to kneel among the roses in the gardens of the Union Buildings in Pretoria. In her hands she holds a Bible, which is symbolic of the marching women’s plan to kneel in prayer should officials attempt to break up the protest.
Both photographs are by Adrian Steirn of the 21 Icons project.
This article is the Women’s Day article in a blogging project which looks at South African women in Women’s Month.