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Ellen Kuzwayo


Ellen Kuzwayo grew up in the country, but lived most of her life in the city. She spent time as a “disgruntled schoolteacher”, social worker, mother, wife, and in her sixties returned to study at the University of the Witwatersrand for a higher qualification in social work. She was very active in the community life of Soweto, and acted as the president of the Black Consumer Union of South Africa and the Maggie Magba Trust. Kuzwayo was chosen Woman of the Year in 1979 by the Johannesburg newspaper The Star, and was nominated again in 1984. She helped make two films, Awake from Mourning and Tsiamelo: A Place of Goodness, both of which have had international distribution. She passed away in 2006. 


Call Me Woman

Call Me Woman is the autobiography of Ellen Kuzwayo, a black South African woman whose life as a social worker,  woman's rights activist, politican, and more was woven in political history of South Africa for almost 60 years. Kuzwayo 's autobiography documents a complex series of changes in herself and her culture, including the onset and devastation of apartheid.

Ms. Kuzwayo was the first black person to win South Africa's premier literary prize, the CNS Literary Award.


Call Me Woman is among that small group of books that have entered directly into my consciousness and changed my frame of reference.

—The San Francisco Chronicle


This book is true testimony from a wonderful woman. For myself, she is one of those people who give me faith in the new and different South Africa they will create.

—Nadine Gordimer

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