Bessie Head of South Africa was a proclaimed teacher and writer in the country of Botswana. Born as the result of a forbidden relationship between an African man and white Scottish woman, Bessie’s mother, Toby Emery, was forced to move into a mental asylum. This is where she gave birth to Bessie Head and where she would subsequently pass away. Toby’s daughter would grow up in foster care until age thirteen and later entered missionary school before going into teaching.
Head became the first woman to publish stories for Botswana’s Golden City Post and the Drum in the early 1960’s. Through her writings, she was labeled a political rebel and was forced to live in exile as a refugee for 15 years. During this period in the refugee camps, Head would complete her major novels “When Rain Clouds Gather”, “Maru”, and “A Question of Power”. Many of her writings cover her life story, being biracial in a racially charged environment, without a family, and in post-colonial Africa.
Bessie Head would occasionally suffer from mental health issues. At one point, she made public allegations about President Seretse Khama, which landed her a bed in a Botswana mental hospital. She would base her novel “A Question of Power” on her experience.
Author Bessie Head died in 1986. Her legacy was left with the Bessie Head Heritage Trust, along with the Bessie Head Literature Award established in 2007.