In 1953, she joined the South African Parliament. Six years later, Suzman became among the creators of the Progressive Party (later renamed the Progressive Federal Party), which opposed apartheid rule. Suzman continued a member of Parliament until her 1989 retirement. Suzman expired on January 1, 2009, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Suzman’s parents, Samuel and Frieda Gavronsky, were Lithuanian Jews who’d immigrated to South Africa to escape oppression.
Raised in Germiston, a gold-mining town, Gavronsky received her youth instruction in the Parktown convent school in nearby Johannesburg. Suzman went to attend Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand. Suzman eventually re-registered in the University of Witwatersrand, where she studied economics and economic history. Suzman received her degree in 1940. The next year, Suzman began to serve as a statistician for South Africa’s War Supplies Board.
Discriminatory racial laws had existed for a long time in South Africa, but it had been the National Party—after taking control of the government in 1949—that started to institute the laws of apartheid. Suzman, who’d joined the opposing United Party, became a member of Parliament in 1953. Unlike the 11 likeminded liberal co-workers who’d formed the Progressive Party along with Helen, Suzman was reelected to Parliament in 1961. For the next 13 years, she’d stand alone in her perspectives as the sole antiapartheid member of the body. In 1974, the Progressive Party was able to fill six additional seats in Parliament.
“Suzman stand for straightforward justice, equal opportunity and human rights. The essential components in a democratic society – and well worth fighting for.” For a long time, Suzman’s voice spoke out in favor of peaceful change. Suzman’s 36 years in Parliament came to an end along with her retirement in 1989. The Helen Suzman Foundation was formed in 1993 in order “to encourage the values espoused by Helen Suzman throughout her public life as well as in her commitment to public service.”
When South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994, Suzman was part of the Independent Electoral Commission, which observed over the electoral procedure. An active person in the statutory Human Rights Commission, Helen was present when Nelson Mandela signed South Africa’s new constitution in 1996. Suzman was survived by her two daughters, Frances and Patricia.