"I can't bear working in an environment where things don't get done. I'm not a flamboyant type of person, I get things done," she told an interviewer some years ago.
Currently the province's finance and tourism MEC, Brown was born in Cape Town 1961 and grew up in the coloured suburb of Mitchells Plain.
She trained and worked as a teacher for a number of years, and continued to take a keen interest in education even when politics came to dominate her life.
Brown chaired the Mitchell's Plain Youth Congress in 1979 and was a member of first the United Women's Organisation and then the United Women's Congress, serving ultimately as the congress' provincial secretary.
The congress effectively became the Western Cape ANC Women's League after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, and Brown served for a decade as Western Cape provincial secretary of the league.
She was involved in the United Democratic Front from its formation in 1983 until its disbandment, sitting on its finance committee.
Brown joined the ANC in 1987 and was elected to the party's Western Cape provincial executive and working committees in 1999.
In 1993 she completed a certificate in gender planning methodology at the University College, London.
Gender planning is described by one academic source as being focused on the social relations of inequality between men and women.
In 1994 and again in 1999 she was elected as an ANC member of the Western Cape legislature.
She chaired the standing committees on community services and on health and welfare, and served as chief whip and the deputy speaker.
In the 2000 local government elections she stood as the ANC's candidate for mayor of Cape Town, against the Democratic Alliance's flamboyant Peter Marais, and lost.
Brown, like Marais, is coloured, and competition for the coloured vote was seen as crucial then, and will be as important in next year's general election where the ANC will be trying to retain the province against a strong Democratic Alliance challenge.
She said at the time of the mayoral campaign she was "not necessarily the most willing candidate", but that she was a loyal party member.
'I can do the work'
"I suppose the fact that the ANC has placed this honour on me means I can do the work," she said.
Instead of joining the ANC in opposition on the city council after her defeat, she stayed in the legislature, where in May 2004, she was appointed MEC for finance, economic development and tourism.
The portfolio has since been renamed finance and tourism.
In the same year, she took steps to distance herself from the affairs of her former living partner, travel agent Soraya Beukes, who was one of the accused in the parliamentary travel voucher fraud saga.
At the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007, she was voted in at number 49 of the 80 ordinary members of the party's national executive committee.
Brown's personal interests are said to be playing golf, reading and "an admiration of arts and culture".