Remembering Ruth

By Jess Levy and Sian Cohen 

The women of Ruth First House commemorated the 25th anniversary of Ruth First’s assassination in conjunction with Women’s Day. First was a multifaceted woman in the struggle for equality in South Africa and abroad.

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An inspiring program of events highlighted the many traits of Ruth First, personally and publicly. Seminars by guest speakers Albie Sachs and Gillian Slovo took place as well as informative talks by Rhodes University lecturers.

Sachs, First’s friend and comrade, gave an emotional account of the contradictions in First’s character on Wednesday. He described his “strong, brave, bright” friend as also having a “sense of deep internal dissatisfaction. She didn’t even know how sharp her tongue could be,” he recalled. Charmaine Chitiyo, Ruth First House senior student, cited this talk as the highlight of her week.

Slovo, one of First’s daughters, spoke about her mother on Thursday evening. She was witness to her mother’s sharp mind, noting that First “wanted the revolution, but she also wanted her Italian shoes and tailored frock. All these different Ruths and this for someone who was only flesh and blood.”

Other activities included a picnic on Women’s Day where Vivian De Klerk said, “Our duty on Women’s Day is to expose and denounce practices and policies that silence women.” Flowers were given to all the attending women and a plaque outside the Ruth First House was unveiled on Saturday in honour of First’s legacy. The week ended with a march to remember women who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for the rights that we enjoy today.

Larissa Klazinga said that the week of commemoration “did justice to [Ruth First’s] legacy and her monumental contribution to our democracy”

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