Winnie Mandela, Former Wife of Nelson Mandela, Dead at 81

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid activist and ex-wife of the late President Nelson Mandela, has died in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness, several news outlets reported Monday. She was 81.

Born in 1936 in what is now known as South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, she met Nelson, a lawyer and anti-apartheid revolutionary, in 1957 and married him a year later. The couple was married until 1996, though Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for much of that time (1963-1990) after being convicted for conspiring to overthrow the South African government.

A trained social worker, Madikizela-Mandela was as impassioned as her famed husband in the fight against apartheid, particularly during his imprisonment, as she herself was jailed several times for the cause.

Mandela, who died in 2013, was elected as South Africa’s first Black president four years after his release from the Robben Island prison, but he and Madikizela-Mandela divorced two years later. The couple had two daughters.

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