Bessie Emery Head was born in South Africa to a wealthy white mother and a black servant father during apartheid. In her 20s, she became involved as a journalist in Pan-African politics, arguing for the unity of Africa, and had to settle in Botswana as a refugee where she became known as the most influential Botswanan writer of the 20th century. Her book titled A Woman Alone: Autobiographical Writings details key events in her life through a series of essays and articles.
Born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa in 1937, Head was not raised by either parent but essentially raised in a black girl's Anglican boarding school. At the age of 14, Head was told she is bi-racial, which was scandalous in apartheid South Africa, and that her mother was mentally ill. Feeling impacted by racial prejudice, Head grew up understanding how serious a problem racial discrimination was in South Africa.
Head first became a teacher but switched to journalism in 1958, focusing on South African Pan-African politics. Not feeling successful as a journalist, she decided to leave South Africa but knew the government would not allow her to leave except as a political refugee. Hence, she established herself as a refugee in Serowe, Botswana, where she remained until her death. After residing in Botswana for 20 years, she was granted citizenship.
Above all, Head uses her collection of essays and articles to explain her Universalist perspective in which she sees no distinctions between races and groups of people--she just sees human beings.