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Hilda Bernstein Biography


Hilda Bernstein was a British-born author, artist, and an activist against apartheid and for women’s rights.

The daughter of the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Hilda Bernstein was born in London and emigrated to South Africa at the age of 18 to work in journalism. She became active in politics and had a long association with the African National Congress (ANC) and, in particular the ANC’s Women’s League. She married fellow activist Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein in March 1941. Her career as an artist only really began in London in exile. After 1972 her etchings, drawings and paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy and featured in many solo and group exhibitions in the United Kingdom and South Africa. She returned to South Africa with her husband for the installation of President Nelson Mandela in 1994, but she did not return to live in the country until after husband’s death in 2002. A multi-talented woman, she also wrote several books including For Their Triumphs and For Their Tears (1975), a study of women under apartheid, and Death is Part of the Process (1983), a prize-winning novel based on the early days of the ANC’s armed struggle which became a two-part BBC television film (1986).

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