Mary Benson

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Mary Benson (1919-2000) Author, dramatist and anti-apartheid campaigner.


Born in Pretoria on 8 December 1919. She died in London in 2000 at the age of 80.




She originally went to Hollywood to become a film star, then joined up with the Union Defence Force for service in the north. After a time with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation fund, she worked for film director David Lean. In 1948, on reading Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, she became politically of age and between 1952 and 1956 helped Rev. Michael Scott found the Africa Bureau in London, became the Treason Trials Defence Fund secretary in 1956, in 1963 testified before the UN Committee on Apartheid. Placed under house arrest when she returned to the RSA in 1965, and then went into exile till 1990.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Wrote a number of radio plays and documentaries, including Robben Island, Red Clay, Journey to the Interior of the Eastern Cape. A close friend of Athol Fugard and Barney Simon, she has written two books based on those friendships: She has edited Fugard’s journals for Ad Donker and in 1997 wrote Athol Fugard and Barney Simon: Bare Stage, a few props, great theatre, a personal account of her relationship with them. Her autobiography is entitled A Far Cry (1990)

Awards, etc


Mary Benson, 1997.

Mona De Beer, 1995.

Obituary written by Barry Streek published in Mail and Guardian, 23-29 June 2000.

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