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Nurse and South African anti-apartheid activist
Albertina Sisulu, nurse and political activist, has died at the age of 92.
In a message read to mourners at her state funeral, former president Nelson Mandela paid tribute to her as 'one of the greatest South Africans'.
Born Nontsikelelo Thethiwe to a poor family in the Transkei, Albertina was orphaned in her teenage years. She adopted the name Albertina at a mission school. To help support her family, she trained as a nurse at the 'non-European' Johannesburg General Hospital.
During this time she nursed with Mr Mandela's first wife, Evelyn, and Barbie Sisulu, sister of the anti-apartheid activist Walter. Mr Mandela was the best man when Albertina married Walter in 1944, the same year that the African National Congress (ANC) youth league was formed.
While practising as a nurse and midwife, Albertina became increasingly politically active. In 1956 she helped lead the women's march in Pretoria against racial segregation. Imprisoned for three weeks because of her political activism, Mr Mandela acted as her defence lawyer. This was the first of many arrests and detentions.
When her husband and most of the ANC leadership were arrested and imprisoned at Robben Island in 1964, it fell upon her to support her family and assume a leading role in the struggle against apartheid. At one time, three generations of her family - her husband, son and grandson - were imprisoned. Walter, who died in 2003, spent 25 years in custody.
Albertina is survived by her five children with Walter, 26 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Obituary | July 13 | vol 25 | no 45 | 2011