Eve Hall was born on 20 March 1937 in Paris, France, to a Jewish father and a German mother. When the Second World War broke out, her father was on a visit to South Africa, leaving her mother to cope with a half-Jewish child under Nazi occupation. Defiantly, she refused to pin the yellow Star of David (an identifier that Jewish people had to wear) on her daughter’s clothes. After surviving the war, Hall and her mother moved to South Africa to be with her father. She matriculated and enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand where she met her future husband, Tony Hall. The two would become, in their own words, ‘gypsy journalists and development workers’.
She joined the African National Congress (ANC) a day after the horrific 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. For the next three years, the Hall’s home turned into a secret venue for the organisation. Around this time, Hall was arrested with three other women for promoting the ANC (which was banned by the apartheid government at the time) by distributing leaflets and posters. She was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment but twelve months were suspended. Therefore, she spent six months in prison, becoming one of the first White women activists to be jailed for opposing apartheid.
Hall was also fined for ‘insulting’ apartheid state president Charles Robberts Swart in a protest leaflet by the then banned Congress of Democrats (COD) – of which she had served as the Johannesburg regional secretary – which she had signed. She and her husband were subsequently listed as members of a banned organisation (the ANC) and were prohibited from working as journalists. With the threat of jail hanging over their heads, the couple was forced to leave the country in 1964, fleeing to Nairobi, Kenya, with their three young sons. They were banned from ever returning to South Africa.
The Halls found themselves in a life of exile across Africa, Asia and the United Kingdom (UK). They moved from country to country, working in Nairobi, Arusha and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; London, Oxford and Brighton in England; Delhi, India; Mogadishu, Somalia; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She was the women’s editor of the Nation, Kenya’s biggest national daily paper. In Dar es Salaam, she launched the ANC women’s section’s first bulletin, Voice of Women, and in Delhi, she was Oxfam’s information officer.
In 1976, they moved to the UK and Hall began a new career with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) after completing her MA in rural sociology at the University of Reading in England. In her new position, she launched and managed women’s community development projects in Southern and Eastern Africa.
Following the end of apartheid which meant that they were no longer banned, the Halls returned home to South Africa, in 1991, after almost three decades in exile. First living in Yeoville, Transvaal Province (now Gauteng), they subsequently bought a house in Matumi, Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga Province). Hall continued with her work as an ANC activist, working with women in rural areas.
Falling short of her goal to write about her life, Eve Hall died in 2007 at the age of 70 after a six-year-long battle with breast cancer. Her husband and sons were at her side.
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