The former wife of legendary civil rights leader Nelson Mandela passed away today. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was 81 years old when she passed into her next life at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Winnie's spokesman, Victor Dlamini, made the announcement on Monday (April 2) morning. In a statement to the press, Dlamini said Winnie passed away after battling, “a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.” Called “the mother of the nation," Winnie fought apartheid alongside her husband while they were married for 38 years. For the 27 years Nelson remained in jail, Winnie played a monumental role in connecting her husband with the outside world, and vice versa. She headed several movements while Nelson was imprisoned, becoming a commanding force in the civil rights movement.

Whereas Nelson was known for his peaceful approach, Winnie became infamous for her more radical approach. Her no-nonsense commitment to the cause gained her negative press, although she remained a devout warrior in the movement for freedom. In 1996, Nelson ended the 38-year marriage with Winnie, and testified in court that she was having an affair. Although the two separated, Winnie remained a loyal supporter of her ex-husband and his legacy. Born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela, Winnie's energy and legacy will forever be remembered worldwide.