Last updated: 08 June 2011
Frances Goitsemane Baard, lovingly called “Ma Baard”, was born on 1 October 1901 in Beaconfield, Kimberley as Frances Maswabi. She worked as a domestic servant, then a teacher where after she became the Secretary of the Food and Canning Worker’s Union in Port Elizabeth. She was a very active political activist during the fifties and sixties and represented the FCWU in Port Elizabeth’s Local Committee of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU).
She married Lucas Baard in 1942 in Port Elizabeth and attended the Methodist Church. Comrade Frances became a fierce opponent of the apartheid government. Joining the ANC in 1948, she became the Secretary of the ANC’s Women League in Port Elizabeth. After the Women’s March to the Union Buildings in 1956, she also played an important role in the Federation of South African Women (FSAW), having participated in the campaign against pass laws in Port Elizabeth.
In addition to the above protest actions, she also participated in the 1952 campaign of defiance against unjust laws and the boycotting of Bantu Education in 1955. She was also involved in the formulation of the Freedom Charter that same year. Comrade Frances later became an ANC organizer and was arrested in 1956 after being charged with treason.
During the sixties, comrade Frances faced a continuous battle with the state as the latter wanted to silence her by imprisonment and other intimidation tactics. She regularly suffered long periods of imprisonment, after having been detained in December 1962 and banned in January the following year.
She was arrested again in 1963 and kept in solitary confinement for a year before the start of her trial. After the trial, she spent five years in prison under the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1969 she was released and banned to Boekenhout but moved to Mabopane in Northern Transvaal. Friends and relatives took care of her children during her imprisonment.During the 1980’s, Frances also became involved in the United Democratic Front (UDF) , a civic organization protesting against the tricameral parliament of the apartheid government.
She died in 1997 in Mabopane in Gauteng. The Diamentveld District in Kimberley in the Northern Cape was renamed in her memory in June 2001.
FAWU salutes “Ma Baard”, a great struggle hero, a dedicated trade unionist and fierce women leader!