- ZA MR-MM-466
Part of Mandela Materials
Hilda Bernstein's papers include a series of journals dating from 1967 to 2001 and personal diaries written whilst in prison, and on travels throughout South Africa and Europe. A large part of the collection marks her involvement with women's rights and work for the ANC Women's League. There is also a considerable collection of art records documenting her career in London and Europe. The bulk of the collection is comprised of records relating to Hilda's extensive writings - books, articles and political literature. Of particular prominence is material collected for her most recent book The Rift, which captures the experiences of South African exiles. There is also a large collection of correspondence both personal and professional and political brochures relating to her position as City Councillor for the Communist Party in Johannesburg from 1943 to 1946.
The records kept by Hilda (viewed as 'evidence' of Hilda's activities) far outnumber those kept by Rusty. It would be misleading to presume that this is in any way a complete archive of the Bernstein's activities.
On the contrary, there are large gaps. For example, there is very little in the collection relating directly to the Freedom Charter, in which Rusty played a major part in the organizing committee and was responsible for drafting the country-wide submissions that would become the Charter. Consideration should also be made for the possibility that Hilda is a more conscientious record keeper than Rusty was, or that due to persistent banning and arrest Rusty was forced to destroy evidence of his activities or resist the documentation of these activities. In truth, the reasons for the shape of this collection are too numerous and extensive to state. As it stands, the researcher can at best make this deduction - that Hilda's work and influence in the liberation struggle, particularly in the role assigned to woman, is vast and unique, and deserves attention beyond the shadow cast by Rusty's political career. In Hilda's case it is a matter of the biography that has yet to be written.
Hilda and Rusty Bernstein Papers