Our edited extract from the Imbokodo – Women Who Shape Us series, written by Athambile Masola and Xolisa Guzula, tells us about Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke, a pioneer South African activist.  This extract comes from the book in the series entitled “10 Extraordinary Leaders, Activists and Pioneers”.


Charlotte Makgomo Mannya-Maxeke  was born in 1871 in a small town – Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape –  to a Xhosa mother, Anna Manci and a Pedi father, John Kgope Mannya.

Mam’Charlotte’s early education began at a mission school in Kariega (Uitenhage) near Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) where the Rev. Isaac Wauchope was her teacher. He was a writer who published his work in the early newspapers. Through his writing, he challenged the European settlers arriving in the area.

Mam’Charlotte was a teacher, one of the co-founders of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church in South Africa, a social worker and women’s rights activist in the 1920’s.

Her life is an example of someone who understood the power of education and how it could create opportunities for others. She used her education to build schools and organisations, and to set up church groups that would change the lives of black people for the better. She worked with people of all races without discriminating.

She was the only woman to attend the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC, present-day ANC) in Bloemfontein in 1912 and took part in the Anti-Pass Campaign in 1913. In 1920 she wrote an open letter in the newspaper Umteteli waBantu (Mouthpiece of the People) in order to challenge the SANNC because their bad leadership was affecting the Bantu Women’s League, which she established in 1918.

She passed away in 1939 while living in Kliptown, Johannesburg. 

Tell us: Did you know about Mam’Charlotte and her pioneering work?