Ros de Lanerolle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ros de Lanerolle
Born(1932-01-22)22 January 1932
Died23 September 1993(1993-09-23) (aged 61)
OccupationActivist, feminist publisher

Ros de Lanerolle (22 January 1932 – 23 September 1993),[1] also known as Rosalynde Ainslie, was a South African activist, journalist and publisher. Having settled in Britain in the 1950s, she campaigned actively against apartheid, and later became a pioneering figure in women's publishing in the UK, called by Florence Howe "the doyenne of feminist publishers".[2]

Life and career[edit]

Jennifer Rosalynde Ainslie was born in 1932 in Cape Town, where she went to school and attended the University of Cape Town, before moving to London, England, in 1954[3] as a graduate student of English literature.[1][4] A radical socialist, she became increasingly involved with the politics of Southern Africa, and on a 1958 visit to Northern Rhodesia, hoping to meet South African trade unionists working there, she was taken into custody, declared undesirable, and deported.[1]

She became London representative of the anti-apartheid quarterly journal Africa South, edited by Ronald Segal,[3][5] and interacted closely with other South African exiles, including Ruth First, with whom she formed a close 20-year friendship.[6] De Lanerolle was a member of the Boycott Movement (others included Peter Koinange, Claudia Jones and Steve Naidoo) founded in London on 26 June 1959,[7] campaigning around the call by Albert Luthuli to boycott South African exports.[8] In 1960 she was a prime initiator, together with Vella Pillay and Abdul Minty,[9] of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) in Britain, and was its first secretary.[1][10][11] She wrote two important pamphlets, published by AAM: Unholy Alliance (1961), analysing the support that the British military and business community and government gave to the white-minority Verwoerd regime (the pamphlet was launched at a press conference in London in 1962 by Irish writer and diplomat Conor Cruise O'Brien, who contributed the Introduction),[12] and The Collaborators (with Dorothy Robinson, 1964), revealing the intricacies of the financial politics of apartheid.[1]

Publishing career[edit]

In 1966, her book The Press in Africa: Communications Past and Present was published by Gollancz in London and Walker and Company in New York. She also did freelance editing work for Heinemann's African Writers Series,[1] acknowledged by editorial director James Currey as the "most important single person at this time" in the South African network.[13] She began working for Ernest Hecht's Souvenir Press in 1975, and in 1981 moved to the Women's Press (co-founded in 1977 by writer and publisher Stephanie Dowrick and entrepreneur Naim Attallah),[14][15] where she was managing director and commissioning editor, publishing authors including Rosalie Bertell, Alice Walker, Ellen Kuzwayo, Joan Riley, Caesarina Makhoere, Emma Mashanini, Tsitsi Dangarembga,[16] Ama Ata Aidoo, Merle Collins, Pauline Melville, Farida Karodia, and many others. As Helen Carr has observed: "The Women’s Press in Britain ... built up by Ros de Lanerolle, a South African who had earlier been much involved in opposition to apartheid, from the beginning had a policy of publishing work by black and what were then referred to as Third World writers."[17] She was a founder member of the Feminist Book Fair and helped found the organisation Women in Publishing (WiP), campaigning to improve the position of women in the book trade.[18] In 1992 she was awarded WiP's Pandora Prize for her contribution "to raising the status of women in publishing".[10]

De Lanerolle left the Women's Press in 1991 after a decade at the helm.[19] She was already ill when in 1993 she made the second of two visits to South Africa since her name was removed from the banned list; she was planning new publishing ventures that would be compensatory and beneficial to Black Africans,[1] and had launched her new company, Open Letters, with Alison Hennegan and Gillian Hanscombe as co-directors.[20][21][22] De Lanerolle was also a co-originator of the Orange Prize for Fiction by women.[10] At the time of her premature death from cancer in 1993, aged 61, she was "at the height of her career as a feminist publisher".[23]

Personal life[edit]

In 1960, she married Sri Lanka-born Accha de Lanerolle,[24] and they had two children: son Indra[25] and daughter Ayisha.[1][26]

Selected writings[edit]

  • (with Ronald Segal and Catherine Hoskyns) Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties (Stevens & Sons, 1961)
  • The Unholy Alliance: Salazar, Verwoerd, Welensky; Introduction by Conor O'Brien, Foreword by Basil Davidson (London: Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1961)
  • The Collaborators (with Dorothy Robinson; Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1964)
  • The Press in Africa: Communications Past and Present (London: Gollancz; New York: Walker and Company, 1966)
  • Masters and Serfs: Farm Labour in South Africa (International Defence & Aid Fund, 1973)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Haward, Pat, "Jennifer Rosalynde de Lanerolle 1932–1993" (obituary), History Workshop Journal (1994), 37 (1):261–266, Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/hwj/37.1.261.
  2. ^ Florence Howe, A Life in Motion, New York: The Feminist Press, 2011, p. 397.
  3. ^ a b Christabel Gurney, "The origins of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement", African National Congress website.
  4. ^ Arianna Lissoni, "The South African liberation movements in exile, c. 1945–1970", PhD thesis submitted to the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, January 2008. Accessed 16 April 2014.
  5. ^ Africa South.
  6. ^ Alan Wieder, Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013, pp. 197–8.
  7. ^ Stefan Manz and Panikos Panayi (eds), Refugees and Cultural Transfer to Britain, Routledge, 2013, p. 163.
  8. ^ Ainslie, Rosalynde (March–April 1960). "Beyond the boycott". New Left Review. I (2).
  9. ^ Vella Pillay, South African History Online.
  10. ^ a b c "De Lanerolle, Ros (UK publisher)", in Cheryl Law, Women, A Modern Political Dictionary, I.B. Tauris, 2000, p. 202.
  11. ^ Kader Asmal and Adrian Hadland, with Moira Levy, Politics in My Blood: a Memoir, Jacana Media, 2011, p. 41.
  12. ^ "Pamphlets", Forward to freedom – The history of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement 1959—1994.
  13. ^ James Currey, "Representing South Africa in the African Writers Series", English in Africa, Vol. 34, No. 1 (May 2007), p. 12.
  14. ^ Women Writing: Views & Prospects 1975–1995, Panel Session: Publishing: Fact and Fiction, National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ Eagleton, Mary; Parker, Emma (2015). The History of British Women's Writing, 1970-Present: Volume Ten. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 84. ISBN 9781137294814.
  16. ^ Caroline Rooney, "Interview with Tsitsi Dangarembga", Wasafiri, Vol. 22, No. 2, July 2007, pp. 57–62.
  17. ^ Helen Carr, "A history of women's writing", in Gill Plain and Susan Sellers (eds), A History of Feminist Literary Criticism, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 129.
  18. ^ Ros de Lanerolle, "Publishing against the 'other censorship'", Index on Censorship, Volume 19, Issue 9 ("Women: Breaking The Silence"), 1990.
  19. ^ Simone Murray, Mixed Media: Feminist Presses and Publishing Politics, Pluto Press, 2004, p. 6.
  20. ^ Philip G. Altbach, Edith S. Hoshino (eds), International Book Publishing: An Encyclopedia, 1995, p. 138.
  21. ^ Open Letters Limited.
  22. ^ Ellen Mikzzell, "More iron in the spine", New Statesman & Society, 7 October 1992, Vol. 5, Issue 210, p. 36.
  23. ^ Judy Attfield, Bringing Modernity Home: Writings on Popular Design and Material Culture, Manchester University Press, 2007, p. xii.
  24. ^ As Arianna Lissoni notes ("The South African liberation movements in exile, c. 1945–1970", Ph.D thesis, SOAS, 2008, p. 50) this "made their return to South Africa impossible".
  25. ^ "indra de lanerolle". Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  26. ^ Agency, The Conversation. "The Conversation Agency: Ayisha de Lanerolle". Retrieved 2018-01-08.

External links[edit]