The Other Tea Party

I have just finished reading Justine Picardie’s book “My Mother’s Wedding Dress – The Life and Afterlife of Clothes”, an exploration of family and memory through clothes and fashion. It was recommended to me by my friend Angela who is writing her first novel in between the refurbishment of her flat. Justine Picardie writes for the Telegraph, not a paper I would normally read, but I thoroughly enjoyed her book.

One of the most interesting chapters was about Justine’s grandmother who lived in South Africa and was one of the early members of the Black Sash. I had never heard of the Black Sash – but on the 19th May 1955 six middle-class white women who were all opposed to the Senate Bill, the new bill proposed to remove the vote from people described in South Africa as ’colours’, had a tea party. The women at this Tea Party made a plan, that each one would phone six friends, one of these friends was Justine’s grandmother. The women then went on to organise a series of demonstrations and silent vigils. The Black Sash continued with its non-violent protest throughout the period of apartheid in South Africa. On his release from prison in 1990 Nelson Mandela called Black Sash the conscience of white South Africa. Today the Black Sash continues to work for justice and human rights with a particular emphasis on women and children helping them to recognise and exercise their human, social and economic rights. And to create a society that has effective laws and protection for the most vulnerable. They also support the ‘right to Water’ campaign.

I really enjoyed Justine Picardie’s book for its blend of humour and sadness which she has handled with compassion and insight and there are some wonderful fashionista anecdotes thrown in as well.