St Mary's and the wider community

While the Sisters are at St Mary’s, the school has a close association with the Community of the Resurrection. Renowned anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston and others from the Community are frequent visitors, addressing the girls, giving Lent talks and performing chaplain duties. Despite the new apartheid laws, Father Huddleston and the Sisters contrive meetings between St Mary’s girls and pupils from Orlando School, in Soweto. Huddleston’s famous jazz band – which launched the careers of musicians of the likes of Hugh Masekela – plays at the school. The girls love it and the “applause was deafening. ‘Encore, encore,’ we shouted, but Sister Superior held up a restraining hand.”

Although St Mary’s is legally prohibited from accepting African pupils, the girls display a strong social conscience. In her head girl’s report in 1961, Jennifer Greig writes: "We have continued to support Thabisong, ‘Place of Joy’, in Alexandra Township, and send a large box of fruit to them every week. Much good work is done at Thabisong by caring for African children. Some African mothers are also helped with dress-making, and we try to assist them in whatever way possible.”

The Black Sash is a women’s organisation that takes a stand against racial discrimination and some St Mary’s mothers are part of the movement, influencing their daughters. Nelson Mandela is to call the movement the conscience of white South Africans.

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Getty Images

Hugh masekela 1389962687

Hugh Masekela

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Jennifer Greig (centre)

Father trevor huddleston

Father Trevor Huddleston

A painting of father huddleston in sophiatown

A painting of father huddleston in sophiatown