This paper examines how the Durban Bantu Child Welfare Society (DBCWS) came to be established as part of a wider context of burgeoning public activities by African women in Durban. I consider kholwa women’s interaction with the local state and with white liberals who were participating in a national turn towards the establishment of ‘Non-European’ child welfare societies in South Africa. Isabel Sililo and Bertha Mkhize - prominent amongst those who started African women’s welfare societies during the 1930s – also vocally opposed the Durban Town Council’s efforts to enforce and to extend urban segregation. The DBCWS began its work in this context of fierce opposition to the promulgation of new pass law regulations aimed at controlling African women’s movements into Durban and that sought to stipulate application for certificates of exemption as the only alternative to a stringent process of seeking permission for every visit to the city. In inter-war Durban, ‘Native Welfare’ first referred to control of African male leisure time and focused primarily on migrant labour. By the end of the 1930s the presence of a the DBCWS signified reluctant concession to the fast-growing number of African families and to the fact of urban African poverty.