Feisty and formidable, Fatima Meer, who died in 2010 at age 81, was a trailblazing scholar and anti-apartheid activist with a lot to say. That South African society didn’t always know quite how to deal with her can be gleaned from two of the “firsts” she achieved.

She was the first woman in South Africa banned for her political activities, in 1954, restricting her from attending gatherings and making public statements, among various prohibitions. (Meer regularly flouted the ban and two subsequent orders.)

Then, when the two-year ban lifted, she became the first non-white woman appointed at a “white” university, as lecturer in sociology at the University of Natal, where she encountered various forms of racist and sexist discrimination.

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