Political career

The Transition: Academic to Politician

Who or what inspired Helen Suzman to give up her academic position as lecturer in economic history at the University of Witwatersrand South Africa, and, instead become a politician?

With few obvious advantages to enter politics, what drove Helen Suzman to be the lone voice against Apartheid in South Africa’s government?  She was the daughter of Jewish immigrants to South Africa. She was an English-speaking woman in a country dominated by Calvinist Afrikaner men. She was willing to stand up for her beliefs and face danger.
Helen Suzman did not come from a Liberal or prosperous social background and said about her own political career “I managed with no help”. In her early political career she combined being the wife of a physician, the mother of two small children and used her knowledge of economics and political process to fight for social justice and change in South Africa. These combined characteristics appear to have equipped Helen Suzman with the pertinent skills to emerge as the white social critic who awakened the world to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.

Helen Suzman’s life is a remarkable example of how it was necessary for her to change from academic to politician in order to bring about the change she wanted to see. As a politician, she was awarded 27 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received countless other awards for her work against Apartheid from religious and human rights organizations around the world


Resources

Here is a link in which Helen Suzman’s early academic career is described: http://africanhistory.about.com/od/apartheideraleaders/a/bio-Suzman.htm/

Here are links in which Helen Suzman explains her motivation to be active in South African politics:Helen Suzman: Notable Women BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/01/2007_48_thu.shtml

Helen Suzman, Anti- Apartheid Crusader Dies at 91.
Fresh Air: Interview with Terri Gross
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98958054

Here is a link in which a history of the Afrikans is described: http://en.wikepedia.org/wiki/Afrikaner/

Here are links in which Helen Suzman’s political contribution is discussed and evaluated:
South African Heroine Remembered
Tell me more: Political review by Prof Glenn Frankel
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99007249