There seems to be a myth surrounding the nature of South African women's participation in the struggle against apartheid. It is one which erroneously assumes that women, who must undertake almost complete responsibility for the welfare and survival of their families, are so limited by being passive, nurturing and motherly that they cannot at the same time be powerful, independent and politically active.
Breaking the Silence, A Century of South African Women's Verse (Lockett 1991) forwards the cause of self-definition for the women and mothers of South Africa. The insight it provides into the political commitment and social orientation of women helps dispel the myth of Mother Africa, which, as editor Cecily Lockett describes it,
seldom allows for any role other than those of wife and mother for the black woman, who continues to be a prisoner of gender, defined only in terms of black men. Similarly, the emphasis on courage, determination, and survival as positive qualities inherent in black women tends to glamorize their real suffering and oppression as, in many cases, sole breadwinner of single-parent families (1988, 35).
Perhaps that underestimation of the power of South African women can be dispelled in light of their literary contributions, which are now surfacing with increasing momentum. The role of South African women in society, as seen in Cecily Lockett's anthology, Breaking the Silence, A Century of South African Women's Verse, is all encompassing and inherently proactive.