Cissie Gool

The Jewel of District Six

November 6 1897 — July 4 1963
Artist: Ruth Sacks
Location: Longmarket Pedestrian Mall, between Buitenkant and Plein Streets, Cape Town
Art and design students from the nearby College of Cape Town relax on Ruth Sacks’s Longmarket Street memorial in honour of Cissie Gool. The 17 bollards of different sizes symbolise laws that were passed as a result of Gool’s actions.
Picture: Craig Mathews © South African History Archive

In August 1938 Cissie Gool was elected to the Cape Town City Council, the first black woman in the country to serve in local government. Known as the "Jewel of District Six" she represented the people of that constituency in the council until 1951. The daughter of city councillor and political leader Dr Abdullah Abdurahman, she was a founder and leader of the National Liberation League and the Non-European Front in the 1930s, and was active in the fledgling passive resistance movement. In 1962 Gool became the first black woman to be called to the Cape Bar.

From The Archives
The Young Author
When she was 15, Cissie won the African People’s Organisation newspaper award for best poem for a person under 16. Titled "His Mother’s Boy", its sentimentality is perhaps to be excused in an adolescent whose talents grew in other directions.
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
View the flyers that signalled that Gool had arrived on the Cape Town political scene. Distributed in 1938, they urged voters in District Six to put their crosses next to her name, and outlined her political platform.
Read one of the many letters of congratulation Gool received on being re-elected to represent District Six on the Cape Town City Council in 1944.
Life Stories
Icon and Iconoclast
Cissie Gool was much more than "the younger daughter of Dr Adburahman", as newspapers of the day described her. She was a tireless activist for human and civil rights, and the first black woman elected to the Cape Town City Council in 1936.
Making the Memorial
Who is Ruth Sacks?
This project was Sacks’s first public commission and has been very different from private commissions, which generally offer greater freedom.
The Light Bulb Moment - The Artist's Concept
Sacks explains the inspiration behind the 17 concrete bollards, each inscribed with text depicting Cissie's political contribution.
"What I try to do is build a brighter and better population for Cape Town as a whole."
Cissie Gool
Cissie Gool, 1954
Bailey's History Archives


Pictures and promises

In this lesson plan, learners will study some images of Cissie Gool, including an election handbill, a newspaper report and an extract from a poem she wrote when she was a teenager. They will be asked to see how much they can find out about what she was like from this collection of sources.


Lesson plan
You′ll need the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader to view these lesson plans. Download it here.
Archive Photo Gallery
Posters for the "people’s own candidate" and photos from the very public life of Cissie Gool.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Capetonians at play on the inscribed bollards that commemorate the "Jewel of District Six" .
Audio Documentary
Hear how Gool both served and scandalised Cape Town’s Muslim community.
Zoom in on this 360° people-friendly memorial situated on Longmarket Street Pedestrian Mall near parliament.
"Certainly not a Rosa Luxemburg" documentary part 1
Four excerpts from ‘She was certainly not a Rosa Luxemburg,’ by UCT post-graduate student G. Paleker
"Certainly not a Rosa Luxemburg" part 2
Part 2 focuses on Gool as a student and her marriage.
"Certainly not a Rosa Luxemburg" part 3
In Part 3, Gool’s sister-in-law describes listening to her speak at a political event in the Drill Hall
"Certainly not a Rosa Luxemburg" part 4
Gool’s death and funeral brought thousands of mourners onto the streets
Cissie Gool Memorial
Spend some time watching footage of our memorial to Gool, and hear what Cape Town’s residents think of it and the woman it commemorates