Journalist, academic and political activist Ruth Heloise First, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She married former South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Joe Slovo in 1949.
Her political involvement started while she was still a student at the University of the Witwatersrand. She helped to establish the Federation of Progressive Students. Her fellow university students included Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo and Eduardo Mondlane, the freedom fighter from Mozambique and the first leader of Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO).
First was one of the defendants in the Treason Trial of 1956-1961, alongside 156 other leading anti-apartheid activists who were key figures in the Congress Alliance. After the state of emergency that followed the Sharpesville massacre in 1960 she was listed and banned.
She could not attend meetings or publish, and she could not be quoted. In 1963, during another government crackdown, she was imprisoned and held in isolation without charge for 117 days under the Ninety-Day Detention Law. She was the first white woman to be detained under this law
She was killed in 1982 by a parcel bomb addressed specifically to her in Mozambique, where she worked in exile.