Marjorie Bingham

A Biography

Marge Bingham as a school child in the 1970s Marjorie was born and raised in Cape Town into a family of six brothers and sisters. Her father, Peter, worked at a printing company. Her mother, Kathy, alternated between work at a clothing factory and full-time homemaking. In those early years, the Binghams stayed in a small two-bedroom council house where the kids slept on three double-bunk beds and washed themselves in a zinc tub with stove-boiled water. Marge says that, each year, she got one pair of shoes for school and had to run around barefeet in the afternoons. For meals, they never ate a lot of food, as we do in America, but rather always just had enough. Mommy dished up the food and everyone ate what they were given. (Margie loves to tell me these stories to remind me just how humble her roots are, and how gluttonous I am.)

Marge Bingham in Connecticut, 2002

Marge Bingham when I first met her in 1997The Binghams lived in Kensington, about 7 miles from the city center, which was designated a "coloured" township by the apartheid regime. During that time, each racial group was forced to live in segregated areas; coloureds are people of mixed racial heritage and were segregated from 'whites' and 'Africans'. The Binghams continue to live in the Factreton area of Kensington.

Every Saturday, while Margie was growing up, she went with her father to town by bus. Peter loved betting on the horses, so when the two of them got to town, he would gamble at the off-track-betting station and Margie would while away the time outside, waiting for him. Then he'd come out, bearing a lollipop for her, and they would travel home again together. She recounts these journeys with her dad as being some of the most special times she can remember.

During her primary and secondary school years, Marjorie claims that she was a great little sprinter and broad jumper. With her two pony-tails, and speedy little legs, she was the envy of her classmates. I personally have yet to see her run ever!

After high school, she and her sister Wendy became local stars by attending the nearby all-coloured university, the University of the Western Cape. Very few females in her township attended university in those days (or today, for that matter), usually dropping out before matriculation to get factory or office work. But she and Wendy earned B.A.s in Psychology. Heroicly, she completed her degree part-time because, from the age of 18, she was already working full-time for the Department of Land Affairs, in the Surveyor General's Office.

After 13 years of working for the government, Marjorie decided to do a law degree so that she could utilize the knowledge she gained in land affairs. She wanted to make the big bucks as a property lawyer. In 2003 she completed her L.L.B. degree (equivalent to a J.D. in America) and then served as a "candidate attorney" with a large law firm in Cape Town. During that time, she passed the bar exam. Then in 2006, she was 'admitted' by the High Court as a fully qualified attorney. And now she runs her own boutique law firm, Marjorie Bingham Attorneys, specializing in conveyancing and all property matters.

By American standards, Marjorie's family is large. Besides the sizeable nuclear family, her extended family seems ridiculously huge to me. They are scattered all over South Africa, especially in Cape Town and Pretoria. But every now and then, they have mini-reunions where everyone gathers for a good time.

Missing from the picture below is Peter, Marjorie's father, who passed away over a decade ago. As his name suggests, he was the rock of the family. They all still miss him very much. Here, the Binghams and a couple of friends share Christmas lunch with me (the photographer).

Christmas with the Binghams - 2003 Marge Bingham in Udaipur, India Marge Bingham with her brothers and sisters back in the 1970sMarge Bingham with her brothers and sisters back in the 1970s