Judy Chalmers 2006

Judy Chalmers was born in Port Elizabeth, daughter of Elgar Bellhouse, a one-time chairperson of the Progressive Party of Port Elizabeth who instilled liberal and progressive ideals in his children.  They became aware of problems facing South African black communities such as poverty, violence and political injustice. 

Ms Chalmers became one of the women who, often quietly and behind the scenes, actively made a stand against the apartheid state and against the law which forced black women to carry passes.  She and her fellow female activists played primary roles in the struggle against apartheid, against all the odds. The bravery of these women is evident in their tales: they took on the system, the prejudices of South African society and the security forces, often tangling with dangerous people and situations. 

Ms Chalmers, a long-time Black Sash member was arrested multiple times for going into townships without the required permits.  But while the threats to the Sash members may have been "minimal" on the surface, beneath there were sinister forces at work to stop the anti-apartheid movement.  Returning from a meeting late one night with her activist sister and mother of seven, Molly Blackburn, Chalmers was involved in a head-on car accident in which her sister was killed.  Investigations later led to the conclusion that the accident, with the other car, had been no accident, although even when this was investigated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission many years later, evidence could not prove the case either way.

Ms Chalmers made an enormous impact on the history of the country, whether through Black Sash work, through underground organisations, political parties, welfare work, educational lobbying or voter education. 

In 1994, as member of the ANC, she became the regional representative of the Province of the Eastern Cape in the House of National Assembly.  As MP and member of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Joint Monitoring Committee on Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Children, Youth and Disabled Persons and the Access to Electronic Legal Information Committees, she continues to contribute to the Eastern Cape society and mankind at large.