Graca Machel – The only woman to have married two presidents

Grace Simbine Machel is the only woman in history to have been the first spouse to two different democratically elected African leaders.

Machel was born on October 17, 1945, in Gaza, Mozambique. She was the last child in a family of six.

Her early life was characterized by hardship yet fueled by a fierce desire instilled by her late father’s wish for her education.

After completing high school, the Methodist church granted her a scholarship to study Languages at Lisbon University, Portugal.
However, due to surveillance from the Portuguese secret police, she was forced to abandon her education and fled to Switzerland.

These challenges led her to join the liberation movement FRELIMO upon her return to Tanzania in 1973.

It was in this movement, Graca met her first husband Samora Machel who would become the first president of an independent Mozambique.

In September 1975, she married Samora Machel and became the first lady of the country.

Graca showcased her leadership skills as she combined this position while serving as the Minister of education.

Tragedy struck in 1986 when Samora Machel died in a plane crash which made Graca resign from her post as minister.

Subsequently, she became acquainted with Nelson Mandela which led to their union in 1988.

Graca assumed the position of the first lady of South Africa at age 52 solidifying her unique position as the only woman in history to have serve First lady of two different countries.

After Mandela’s death in 2013, Graca Mandela continued to be active in national and international efforts to help children and the less fortunate.

She is a founding member of “The Elders,” an independent group of former global leaders formed in 2007 by Nelson Mandela to work together for peace and human rights.

Graca Mandela is also the Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Chancellor of the African Leadership University, President of the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and an active leader in numerous other educational and charitable organizations.

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