Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life

Emma Mashinini

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01 April 2012

This is the powerful and moving life story of one of South Africa’s leading trade union activists, from her childhood in Sophiatown to her first marriage and divorce, the dark days of her six months in detention and her lasting contributions to labour organisation in South Africa.

Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life was first published in 1989 by The Women’s Press but was never available in South Africa. Emma Mashinini’s autobiography is an accessible, engaging account of a self-effacing union organiser, gender-rights activist and a phenomenal woman who has lived a difficult life and endured many challenges: detention without trial for six months (most of which were spent in solitary confinement); losing two daughters and a son-in-law; health problems as a result of detention; and constant abuse at the hands of apartheid’s enforcers. But Emma’s story is one of courage. It is engaging, at times sad (there is a heart-breaking moment in the text when she forgets her daughter’s name while in solitary confinement), but mostly it is an inspirational account of a selfless individual.

This edition includes a Foreword by Jay Naidoo that brings the reader up to date with Emma’s life and opinions and the state of the labour movement in South Africa as well as moving letters from Mashinini’s family that were written to her on her 80th birthday.

This is a classic South African memoir in the same vein as Ellen Kuzwayo’s Call Me Woman, which recalls and preserves vital accounts of South Africa’s history.