This article was written by Claire Wilt and forms part of the SAHO and Southern Methodist University partnership project


Inanda Seminary, a private all-girls missionary school, played a pivotal role in the education of Black South African women. Just outside of Durban, Inanda Seminary has served as a home and place of refuge for its students for 143 years. The school’s powerful core values shape the minds and conduct of the young women that attend. The esteemed reputation of Inanda Seminary is due to the many impressive alumnae that have flourished in the world thanks to their first-class preparation.

Key Words

Inanda Seminary, Education, Women, Missionary School, Daniel Lindley, Lucy Lindley, Bantu Education Act, Gender Equality

Indanda Seminary and its Influence on Education in South Africa

Inanda Seminary played an important role in the education of Black women in South Africa, as schooling for Black women was not a priority in the nineteenth century. Inanda Seminary was one of the first and only schools for women in southern Africa at the time. Although the school has changed its size and course offerings since its opening in 1869, it still promotes the original core values. The core values that are still important to the school today are honesty, loyalty, respect, self-discipline, sociability, and responsibility. Inanda Seminary gave young women an opportunity to get an education. Two American missionaries, Daniel and Lucy Lindley, founded the school in 1869 about 20 miles north of Durban. The school only boarded 19 girls at first and now the school has grown significantly and is very selective in their acceptance process. In the 1960s and 1970s Inanda Seminary received 1500 applicants, and were only able to accept 90 girls (Healy-Clancy). The growth of the Seminary is due to the development of the school’s prestigious reputation and the exclusivity makes an Inanda education even more appealing.

Education in South Africa in the 1850s was extremely limited. There were segregated government schools where the majority of funding went to the education of the White minority and a private missionary school, the Adams College. Sometimes called the Amanzimtoti School, The Adams College was only an option for young men. The women were seen as unfit to marry the graduates of the Adams College due to the fact that they had no education of their own. Daniel and Lucy Lindley wanted to provide women with the option of education as well as share with them the ideals and traditions of the Christian religion. The Lindleys were sent to South Africa through the American Board of Missions. They were extremely invested in the success of the Seminary, especially the spiritual aspect. According to Heather Hughes, the missionaries viewed the school as a ‘Christian home’ and refuge for the young women that attended (Hughes, 1990). The Lindleys opened the school in 1869 and remained in South Africa until 1873. Their daughter remained at Inanda Seminary after they left to teach at the school. The head teacher at the school was Mary Kelly Edwards, a missionary from Ohio who taught at Inanda Seminary for almost sixty years.

The Lindleys played different roles in the success of the Seminary. Lynette Hlongwane gives insights and perspective for what life was like for Lucy Lindley. She describes the actions of American women missionaries in their founding and running of the Inanda Seminary. She also examines many issues the school faced including sexism, racism, and imperialism. According to Hlongwane, American missionary women’s first job was to take care of their husbands and if they have time leftover they were encouraged to pursue teaching. Missionary work was viewed as a second marriage. The ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) refers to these women as wives of missionaries rather than missionaries on their own even though they were just as dedicated and involved as their husbands in the missionary work.

According to Agnes Wood, the author of Shine Where You Are: a Centenary History of Inanda Seminary, 1869-1969, the first 100 years of the schools operation can be classified into five major periods: ‘the hard years’, ‘changing times’, ‘growing years’, ‘hard times again’, and the ‘war times’. The hard years occurred from 1870-1885. This was when the school was first being established and there were many kinks to work out from day to day operation to responsibility of power. The changing times were 1896-1905. This is when the school opened another building, Lucy Lindley Hall, and was then able to accept more boarders and offer more variety in their classes. From 1906 to 1916 were the growing years. This was a period of growth due to the increased student body size and updated syllabus. The school’s resistance to change through these difficult and changing times displays the passion that fuels the school’s success. ‘Shine Where You Are’ is the official slogan for Inanda Seminary and accurately captures the school’s goal of training the girls to be ‘good Christians and capable home-makers’. Several women were critical to the school’s development, including Mrs. Edwards, the first teacher at the seminary. The school’s success was placed entirely on her shoulders as she was the first head teacher and pioneered the excellence of an Inanda Seminary education. Agnes Wood, the author of ‘Shine Where You Are’ was the principal at Inanda Seminary beginning in 1938. She taught classes and collaborated with other professors to provide a great education for African women. Miss Walbridge brought her to the school in 1929 for work in domestic science at a time that the school was near bankruptcy due to a worldwide economic depression.

Thankfully the Seminary was able to overcome their finical struggles and continue to serve as a symbol of hope for African women. While the mission of the school was to provide education for a class of women that were being neglected, there is a negative stigma associated with the school in regards to exclusivity. Hughes’ research shows not only how the school served as a symbolic lighthouse of hope for Black women. She also describes the elitism associated with the school””the seminary was thought to cater specifically to the children of the African ‘elite’, meaning wealthy and well-educated Africans. The school argues that it covers the cost of girls who cannot afford schooling, but the truth is that the majority of the students are upper-class members of society. This exclusively does not satisfy the goal to provide all girls with the option to get an education.

The Goals and Values of Inanda Seminary

The Seminary was founded on six core values. These values are just as important to the school today as they were when it first opened. The core values are honesty, loyalty, respect, self-discipline, sociability, and responsibility. The girls who attended Inanda Seminary were expected to uphold these values in their everyday life and it was easily monitored since they were boarded on campus. On the Seminary’s website these values are listed on the homepage along with a brief description of how each value is applied day to day at the school. The core value ‘honesty’ is tied back to religion in that ‘Inanda Seminary members should show integrity in all their dealing with themselves, with others, and with God’. This value in particular highlights the fact that Inanda Seminary is a missionary school with a priority of living virtuously. The Lindleys appreciated the value of a good education but placed an even higher level of importance on religion. This makes sense since their main purpose in traveling to South Africa was to spread the word of Christianity. These core values are just one example of how the Seminary is still steadfast in beliefs and is firm in withholding the foundation on which it was established.

A series of interviews with previous Inanda students and staff conducted by historian Meghan Healy-Clancy show that the values were not just words the school puts on their website, but a way of life. Mr. Zondi, a teacher at the school for 11 years spoke of how strong the school stood against the Bantu Education Act (Zondi, 2013). This perseverance demonstrates both loyalty and responsibility to their continued mission as a school for Black South African women. Mr. Zondi also revealed in his interview that the staff at Inanda Seminary were expected to fully adapt to the ways of the school (and church) and were held to this by living on the campus along with the students. Teaching at the seminary was not just a career as it consumed the teachers’ entire lives, as they were the main caregivers for the girls inside and outside of the classroom.

The teachers were able to guide the girls towards a virtuous life by promoting both the vision and the mission listed on the Seminary’s website. The vision is that ‘Inanda Seminary seeks to equip its members for higher education by providing strong academics and Christian leadership under girded by its core values’. This is the vision Daniel and Lucy Lindley shared when they opened the school in 1869. The futures of the girls are a major priority and it is the main factor affecting the school’s curriculum. They tried to include life skills that will help them inside the home as well as religious education that will grant them holy divinity. The mission is that ‘Inanda Seminary provides a Christian educational environment with an African ethos for its members to develop holistically in leadership, life skills, integrated technology, critical thinking, social development and sport.’ Under the value respect it states ‘Inanda Seminary members should be tolerant of diversity, well-mannered and have high regards for others and self’. It is impressive that a school for women that are frequently discriminated against make it a goal to respect diversity in others. This is a great example of how the Seminary builds character in its students.

Face brick building with huge lawn, 30 January 2009. Photograph by Pippa Hetherington. Image source

Inanda Seminary’s Perseverance in the face of Adversity

Despite the many improvements in schooling leading up to it, The Bantu Education Act of 1953 made a large negative impact on South African education. It was part of the apartheid movement and aimed to keep schools segregated by race in South Africa with an inferior education for Black South Africans. This act led to the closing of all but three missionary schools, Inanda Seminary being one of those three, because of the loss of government funding. The Bantu Education Act forced schools that were teaching Black students into a simplified curriculum. The government did not want schools to teach students to have ambitions beyond labour. The government attempted to force change when it neglected to renew the visas of the non-South African staff in the 1970s. This made it so that teachers that were not residents of South Africa would not be able to live in the country. This large loss of dedicated staff combined with a lack of outside funding nearly forced the school into closure. Inanda Seminary did not conform to the Bantu Education Act and therefore lost all government funding. The Act would have required them to simplify their curriculum and would force students to learn in another language (Zondi, 2013). The teachers at the Seminary were proud to avoid these changes, and Mr. Zondi spoke of this pride in his interview with Healy-Clancy. Mr. Zondi respected the school for upholding its high expectations and traditions. The boys school, The Adams College, elected to close rather than decrease the caliber of their education in 1956 (Wood, 1972). Since an American mission funded the Seminary, they were able to remain in operation without funding from the government. Without this external support, it is likely that Inanda Seminary would have suffered the same fate as the Adams College.

After failing to force Bantu Education on Inanda Seminary, the government took another strike by threatening to pull the visas of non-South African staff. Since many of the teachers at the school were American missionaries this caused them to have to leave the country and greatly disrupted the operation of the school. The Seminary was unprepared to lose a portion of their staff and had to re-delegate responsibilities. This led the school to the brink of closure and it had to be supported and managed by the United Congregational Church of South Africa. This gave the church a lot of power and decision-making rights, which worried many that the Seminary would stray from its original purpose. To prevent this from happening, the school was taken back into private management by alumni of the Seminary (Wood, 1972). It goes to show how important the values and traditions are to the girls that graduated from Inanda that they would go to such great lengths to keep it from changing.

African school children in uniform at the chapel, 30 January 2009. Photograph by Pippa Hetherington. Image source

Noteworthy Graduates of Inanda Seminary

The many successful graduates of Inanda Seminary suggest the success of the school in overcoming many obstacles. There is no shortage of impressive Inanda Seminary graduates that have made large impacts on many aspects of African lifestyle. The following notable women are only a small sampling of the great talent that has come out of Inanda Seminary. One example is Linidwe ‘Sgubhu’ Baloyi. She first attended Inanda day school then went onto receive an education at Inanda Seminary from 1960-1964 (Baloyi, 2010). At the time she attended the seminary it was mostly Zulu students. Baloyi believes that the seminary prepared her well for studying at University of Zululand. After graduating, she went on to run a large business in Zululand and hold a position in the Electoral Commission. She speaks very highly of her education at Inanda Seminary and states ‘You need schools like Inanda Seminary when you really want to develop people’ (Baloyi, 2010). Baloyi shows that the Seminary does not just stop at education and is successful in its attempt to build character and impressive qualities in its graduates.

The graduates of Inanda Seminary did not just excel as businesswomen, but also became influential political leaders. Another notable graduate of Inanda Seminary is Joyce Sikhakhane Rankin. Rankin boarded at Inanda Seminary and was very involved with student resistance politics and part of a group that organized the Pioneer Group of the African National Congress (ANC). She later became part of the African Student Association (ASA) in the late 1960s to resist apartheid education. Her involvement with the ASA kept her from enrolling in any Bantu colleges that were rising at this time. Joyce was a journalist and passed messages between political activists that were detained or banned by the government. She worked closely with many big names in the anti-apartheid movement including Nelson and Winnie Mandela and Steve Biko. Later in her life, Rankin was arrested and held at multiple prisons for a total of 18 months during which she was tortured and pressured to change her identity and become a state witness. She remained true to her cause and was eventually encouraged to leave Africa by the ANC in 1972 (, 2014). Rankin’s devotion and passion for her beliefs was instilled during her time at Inanda Seminary and she displays many of the school’s core values throughout her detainment. It takes a care amount and determination to stay true to one’s convictions in the face of torture. Her perseverance is a great example of applying loyalty to the world of politics.

Rankin was not the only political figure to graduate from Inanda Seminary. Nozizwe Madlala Routledge matriculated at the Inanda Seminary and has degrees in Adult Education and Medical Technology. She was an active member of many organisations including the ANC, the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW), the United Democratic Front (UDF), and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Routledge was the Deputy Minister of Defense in the South African Government from 1999-2004; she was the first woman to hold this position. From 2004-2007 she served as Deputy Minster of Health and served as the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly from 2008-2009 (Healy-Clancy). Routledge is viewed as one of the most involved woman leaders and feminists in the country and continues to inspire the youth of Inanda Seminary with what can be done with an education from their school. In addition to the many skills and respected education, Inanda provide student with a variety of outstanding role models.

Some Inanda Seminary alumnae are less in the spotlight but equally as influential in their power of voice. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is currently a Senior Research Professor at the University of the Free State. The research she conducts is focused on victims of gross human rights violations and forgiveness for such. Her research is fueled by the hardships apartheid brought about during the time that she was growing up and being schooled at the Seminary. Her work is world-renowned and she wrote the well-known dialogue A Human Being Died that Night that isa record of her interviews with Eugene de Kock (, (2014). It is through this composition that Gobodo-Madikizela reflects on central issues of humanity including evil and forgiveness. She can attribute a portion of her success to her education at the Seminary where she focused her studies on writing. The diversely talented women of Inanda Seminary are both a source of inspiration and proof of the school’s success in producing well-rounded, hard working leaders.

Influential Growth and Change brought about by Inanda Seminary

It is important to acknowledge the many advancements for Black women in southern Africa in the last century. The triumph of Inanda Seminary was revolutionary for gender equality and many other instrumental changes took place since the opening of the Seminary. Since the opening of the Seminary, women have been granted the right to vote and hold public office in South Africa. African women have been having more of an influence on politics recently. Five women and five women were chosen as African Union (AU) commissioners in 2003. In 2004, Gertrude Mongella was elected to head AU’s Pan-African Parliament. Having women in these influential roles is a great step in getting their voices heard in Africa. In 1979, 51 of 53 AU countries ratified a bill titled Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW is viewed as an international bill of rights for women, and has the ability to make big changes in the lives of African women. Inanda Seminary not only gave Black women a chance to receive a reputable education but also impacted the country and continues to do so today by yielding an abundance of promising young minds with a great deal of potential. Honourable intentions and acute preparation can be depended on by virtue of their Inanda Seminary education.

A Brief Timeline of Events Related to Inanda Seminary


Daniel and Lucy Lindley move to Inanda


Inanda Seminary Opens


Daniel and Lucy Lindley leave South Africa to return to America


Mrs. Edwards leaves the Inanda Seminary


Mrs. Edwards returns to the Seminary as head-teacher


Lucy Lindley Hall is opened


Inanda Seminary establishes school colours and a 2 school songs


Phelps Hall is opened


Bantu Education Act is enforced


Adams College closes in response to the Bantu Education Act of 1953


‘Shine Where You Are: History of Inanda Seminary 1869-1969’ by Agnes Wood is published


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