Louise Juta, born Louise (or Luise)[1] Marx (14 November 1821 – 3 July 1893)[2] was a bookseller and the sister of Karl Marx.

J. C. Juta, bookseller, Cape Town, circa 1860


Louise Marx was the sixth child of Heinrich Marx, a lawyer, and Henriette Pressburg, of Trier in the Prussian Rhineland. Growing up, her elder brother Karl was clearly the dominant child in the family. Louise's niece Eleanor Marx later recorded that Karl was “‘a unique and unrivaled storyteller. I have heard my aunts say that as a little boy he was a terrible tyrant to his sisters, whom he would ‘drive’ down the Markusberg at Trier full speed as his horses and, worse, would insist on their eating the ‘cakes’ he made with dirty dough and dirtier hands. But they stood the ‘driving’ and ate the ‘cakes’ without a murmur for the sake of the stories Karl would tell them as a reward for their virtue.”[1]

Heinrich, a Jew and the son of a rabbi, was baptized in about 1817.[3] With her siblings, Louise was baptized on 26 August 1824 by the Protestant military pastor Mühlenhoff. Shortly after a bout of scarlet fever, she was summoned with her sister Emilie on April 8, 1838 to Trier, because her father was seriously ill with tuberculosis. Heinrich Marx died on 10 May 1838 in Trier.[4] She received, like all underage siblings, a guardian. Therefore, not much could be invested in their education. She was given special consideration in her mother's various wills.

She met Jan Carel Juta [de] in Zaltbommel[5] and they married on 5 June 1853 in a civil ceremony in Trier.[2] On the 7 June a church wedding took place in Traben, in the presence of her mother Henriette Marx and her uncle Lion and aunt Sophie Philips. On 15 June 1853, a notarised contract was concluded in Zaltbommel, in order to regulate the difficult travel conditions for the long journey to South Africa.

On the way to the Cape Colony, the newly wed couple visited Karl Marx and his family in London on June 29th. Dining with him at his Dean Street home,[6] Louise was demonstrably unsympathetic to Karl's views, a fellow guest noting that “she could not countenance her brother being the leader of the socialists, and insisted in my presence that they both belonged to the respected family of a lawyer, who had sympathy of everyone in Trier.”[1] Later, Juta, his wife and children visited Marx and his family and Friedrich Engels in Manchester.

Soon after their arrival (in 1853)[7] in South Africa they founded JC Juta, Bookseller and Stationer, Wale Street, Cape Town, and sold textbooks, government documents and scientific works. In 1883 she sold part of the company to her authorized signatories Jacobus Cuypers and Thomas Mullins Duncan. She died in Rondebosch, Cape Town in 1893.[2]

Louise and Jan Carel had seven children,[2] including the future Sir Henry Juta QC, a barrister and senior Judge in the South African courts, who also served as Speaker of the Parliament of Cape Colony.[8]

Juta Publishing is still trading, and is one of South Africa's leading academic and law publishers.[9]