Leah Tutu, Desmond Tutu’s wife

Nomalizo Leah TutuNomalizo Leah Tutu is the wife of Desmond Tutu. She was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa on 14 October, 1933 under the name of Nomalizo Leah Shenxane. The both of them met at college where Leah was teaching and they got married on 2 July 1955.

Getting married to Desmond Tutu, changed Leah’s life completely. For the first time in her life she had to take responsibility to take care of a husband and a family. This responsibility even became greater when Desmond decided to give up his job as a teacher and went back to college. Being the only provider for a family of four, times were not easy for Leah. However, she has always supported the decisions of her husband.

Leah Tutu biography

Leah Tutu grew up in a large family in Krugersdorp, a small town in South Africa. As a young girl, it was Leah’s dream to become a nurse. However while attending school, it was the school headmaster Zechariah Tutu (her future father in law) who convinced her to choose a career in teaching instead. After finishing her studies at Saint Thomas College, Johannesburg in 1955, Leah returned home to start teaching at her previous high school. She married Desmond Tutu in the same year and soon after she would get pregnant of their first child, Trevor (the first and only son of the couple).

In 1957, Desmond Tutu decided to quit teaching after the Bantu Education Act was signed. Leah supported her husband’s decision to not longer participate in an educational system supporting racial inequality. But at the same time, it also meant that she became the sole provider of a family with (at that time) two children, her first born Trevor and her daughter Theresa.

While having her family as the first priority, Leah also decided to pick up her old dream of becoming a nurse again. She attended the nurse training hospital in Middelburg, Transvaal for a short time, but had to give up the idea when she got pregnant of her third child (and second daughter) Naomi.

Afterwards, Mrs. Tutu was employed in several short time jobs. First as an assistant librarian at the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa (aka Fedsem), later she became the secretary of the Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Roma, Lesotho. These jobs during the Apartheid regime prepared her for her future leading role in improving the conditions of domestic workers.

Being the daughter of a domestic worker, Mrs. Tutu has always been concerned about the social rights and conditions of domestic workers, being one of the largest professional groups in South Africa. Using her experience as a teacher, she became a true advocate of equal opportunities and social rights for the domestic workforce and one of the founders of the South African Domestic Workers Association (SADWA). One of their projects is the training of domestic workers to improve their skills and thus improve their chances of a better career and salary. Other results obtained by SADWA are the installment of a minimum wage of 600 rand and a 3 week work leave each year.

Interesting Facts about Leah Tutu

  • The Desmond and Leah Tutu bridge in Johannesburg was named after Mr. and Mrs. Tutu. The bridge links St Johns College and Roedean School.
  • Mrs. Tutu also has a rose named after herself: The Leah Tutu Rose, which has a rich golden color and belongs to the family of the Modern Shrub Roses.
  • Choir invisible decided to support Mr. and Mrs. Tutu’s work by naming themselves the Desmond and Leah Tutu Peace Choir, becoming the first peace choir in the world.