The Mary Benson collection consists of manuscripts, printed material, correspondence, legal material, diaries, photographs, and personal memorabilia.
Manuscripts by Benson in the collection include the book Athol Fugard and Barney Simon: Bare Stage, a Few Props, Great Theatre; and several radio scripts. The latter include several titles, some adaptations for radio by Benson, and most broadcast by the BBC in the early 1970s through 1995. Titles include "Robben Island"; "At the Still Point" (1971); "In the Park" (1973); "Rainer Maria Rilke: Four Documentaries" (1979-1980); "Red Clay: Journey to the Interior of the Eastern Cape"; and "Sol Plaatje: A Remarkable South African" (1979). Also present are several dozen short works (some published, most unpublished), some in multiple drafts, primarily articles and pieces on various social issues. Titles include "Bishop Ambrose Reeves"; "The Hour is Getting Late"; "Robben Island"; "Roger Blin"; "The Thorn Tree"; and "The Volunteers". In addition, the collection includes about two dozen texts of speeches by Benson, dating from 1951 to the 1990s; fragments of Benson's notes for her talks; her statement "Trials in the Eastern Cape" relating her experiences during the 1960's (1998); and transcripts of interviews given by Benson. The collection also includes a partial draft of Peter Alexander's book Alan Paton, with handwritten corrections and revisions for parts of chapter 15, 16, and 20, dated March 28, 1993.
Printed material in the collection includes many instances of Benson's published writings, in the form of hundreds of tears heets from magazines and newspapers. These include letters to the press (1956-1980), book reviews, journal articles and reports - often for radio broadcasts. These pieces appeared most often in South African and British newspapers from the 1950s to 2000. Publications which ran Benson's pieces include African Bureau News, Christian Action (newsletter), Current History, Encounter, Encyclopedia Britannica, Frontier, The Guardian, London Magazine, The Nation, The New Leader, The Observer, Socialist Commentary, The Spectator, Washington Post, and others. Besides pieces by Benson, there are dozens of articles about her (dating from 1939 at the earliest), mostly profiles from British papers, as well as reviews of her books since 1960. Furthermore, the archive holds reports from the United Nations and United States Congress regarding South Africa. Benson participated in drafting some of these and provided testimony for nine such reports between 1963 and 1970. There are also materials and manuscript pieces by Benson related to the South African Supreme Court and the findings related to the deaths of the "Cradock Four" (1994). Other printed items include several British reviews of Benson's book Tshekedi Khama (1960).
Correspondence in the collection includes more than 1,000 letters and e-mails to and from Benson, dating from the 1950s to 2000. These include 32 personal letters written between 1985 and 1997 regarding death of South African activist Matthew Goniwe and the "Cradock Four"; nearly 70 letters regarding the Suppression of Communism Act and the African National Congress (1964-1985); several letters to Nelson Mandela, as well two responses from him (1986); letters and other items from South African/world human rights organizations, universities, and museums; and personal letters to and from friends.
Legal material in the collection includes records pertaining to Benson's house arrest in South Africa (1966); these are photocopies of original documents, including letters from the Chief Magistrate of Johannesburg, and Benson's reply. Also present are contracts and agreements regarding about 40 books and television/radio plays by Benson (1963-1994); titles include The African Patriots, At the Still Point, Nelson Mandela, South Africa: The Struggle for Birth, and the plays "At the Still Point", "Petals of Blood", "The Price of Freedom", and "Robben Island."
The collection contains ten diaries, from various years between 1938, 1950-1969, and 2000.
The collection has over 1,100 black and white and color photographs of Benson, her family, and many others. These images date from the 1940s to 1999, and include Benson's 80th birthday party. Most of the photos were taken in South Africa, but there are shots from around the world. Images of notable individuals include Harry Belafonte, Katharine Hepburn, and Nelson Mandela.
Personal memorabilia makes up several boxes in this collection. This includes personal records and files, passports, datebooks, artwork, and printed items.
|1. Benson, Mary|
|1. Women's Studies Collections -- Politics, Religion, Public Affairs, and Social Activism Subject Guide|
|2. Journalism Subject Guide|
|3. South African Collections Subject Guide|
|4. Radio Subject Guide|
|5. Civil Rights Subject Guide|
|6. South African literature (English) – Women authors|
|7. South African literature (English) – 20th century|
|8. Political activists – South Africa|
|9. South Africa – Politics and government – 20th century|
|10. Lobbyists – South Africa|
|12. South Africa – Race relations|
|13. Women authors, English|