November 21, 2013 the world lost a legend, a leader, visionary, activist, teacher, my mother, Dr Stella Petersen of Cape Town, South Africa.
She was more than my Mother; she was my teacher, my inspiration, my heroine. Though we may not have agreed on everything – who I am today is a product of who she was. In giving me life, she laid down a strong foundation and became my lighthouse, and my compass. I cannot chronicle her life here, as to do full justice is nothing short of a book or documentary. There is no starting point or end point with my mother, as she is someone who will live longer than her years. She has been a legacy creator and an inspirer of legacies; I am but one of her many products.
My mother was ahead of her times; a true trail blazer, courageous and wise. She did not believe or accept glass ceilings and broke through so many for herself and for others. As a woman, she defied the system, becoming the first black woman to obtain a BSc in botany and zoology, an MSc in science, a senior teaching diploma and a BEd degree at UCT in the early to mid-1940s. Her academic achievements won her a prestigious international educational fellowship to the US, where she became the first South African to study at Syracuse University in New York, earning a master’s in education in 1949.
She returned home immediately and was instrumental in shaping a future for South Africa very few women of her era were engaged in or passionate about. There are many black doctors, scientists and other professionals that owe their career path to their teacher Mrs. Petersen, who fought for slots in universities, when there were none for “people of color”.
Dr. Stella Petersen dedicated her teaching life to the students of Livingstone High School, her alma mater and where she taught biology for over 30 years in Room 3, and then after retiring spent many years volunteering at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
In 2011, Mom was awarded an honorary doctorate in education from University of Cape Town.
Dr Petersen has been described as a deeply revered and respected community figure, and was renowned for her dedication as a teacher, and the high standards she set her learners.
There is a funeral on 29th November 2013 at 1:30pm
St. John’s Church in St. John’s Road, Wynberg, Cape Town 7800
We requests that in lieu of flowers, please send donations to the
Douglas Murray Home for the Aged
Address: 53 Gordon Searle Str, Retreat, 7945 Cape Town