Joey Fourie was born in Oudtshoorn in the then Cape Province (now Western Cape), to a traditional Afrikaans family. She was educated in Wellington, Cape Province. Fourie began her working life at an early age in Cape Town, Cape Province, first as a telephonist and later a waitress.

It was during her time as a waitress that Fourie witnessed the appalling conditions under which waitresses were forced to work. She was particularly shocked at the callousness shown by employees who would deduct money for the waitresses’ lunches and breaks. Angered by this, Fourie decided to organise workers in the catering trade and was subsequently elected as the first secretary of the Waitress Union. This was the beginning of her career as a trade unionist.

Fourie would later become secretary of the National Union of Distributive Workers in Cape Town, and later, the secretary of the South African Hairdressers’ Union, a position she held until 1953 when then Minister of Justice, Charles Robberts Swart, banned her from trade union involvement under the Suppression of Communism Act.

In addition to her work in trade unions, Fourie was also an active member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) – later renamed the South African Communist Party (SACP) – until its suppression in 1950. Her experiences in the trade union movement helped to develop her political awareness, leading to her joining the CPSA.

In 1943, Fourie stood for Parliament as a Communist candidate for the Cape Flats constituency, but despite polling 1 600 votes, she was defeated. Even so, two years later, she won a seat on the Woodstock City Council during a history-making election which gave Woodstock three communist representatives – herself, Betty Sacks, and David Dryburgh.

Joey Fourie died on 7 October 1962 at her home in Parow, Cape Town. She was a courageous woman who bravely stepped away from the comfort of the privileges afforded to her as an Afrikaans woman during the apartheid era to play a role in building a non-racial working-class movement during the 1930s and 40s.

Through her work and her life, Fourie demonstrated the possibility for one to let go of prejudices and stand side-by-side with people of different races in a common struggle for equality.


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