Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)
Struggle pioneer of gender equity
ACTIVIST AnnMarie Wolpe dedicated her life to ensuring the advancement of women’s rights through education.
Wolpe was 87 when she died on February 14 after battling lung cancer and emphysema.
She was the widow of Rivonia trialist Harold Wolpe who was arrested with Nelson Mandela in 1963. Friends and relatives gathered at Temple Israel Synagogue in Cape Town on Friday to pay their respects to a woman they described as larger than life.
Wolpe was born in Johannesburg and educated at Wits University where she met her husband.
She executed a bold plan to help Harold and fellow political prisoners Mosie Moolla, Abdulhay Jassat and Arthur Goldreich escape from Marshall Square police cells after their arrest.
She planted blades in the food she took to the prison for Harold.
A day after the escape Wolpe was herself arrested and later released.
The mother of three fled to the United Kingdom without her children. She got a job at the University of Bradford.
After Harold’s release the family reunited in the UK where Wolpe headed women’s studies at the University of Middlesex and founded the journal Feminist Review.
In 1991 they returned to South Africa and Wolpe helped develop education policy documents for the ANC. She worked at the educational policy unit at the University of the Western Cape and published several academic books before her memoir, The Long Way Home was published in 1994. Two years later, her husband died.
Wolpe continued her work in equal education for young women until her retirement. She settled in Cape Town, surrounded by family and found a love for designing mosaics. Wolpe leaves three children, Peta, Tessa and Nicholas and six grandchildren.
Family members said they would remember the witty and stylish woman who spoke her mind.
“She was my rock. She was a great intellectual who sometimes put herself down in order to push others before her,” said her son Nic.